Star Trek: Picard – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Remembrance” – A Promising Return

Patrick Stewart and Isa Briones in Star Trek: Picard (2020)

   “Remembrance” is a promising start to “Star Trek: Picard.” This is an episode that gives us the major themes, introduces the characters and factions and is a wonderful character analysis of Jean-Luc Picard and who he is. Suffice to say, this is a show I’d highly recommend thus far. As part of what I’ll be doing with the episodic reviews is reviewing past “Star Trek” episodes that the “Picard” episode reminds me of. It has been wonderful going back and watching the shows I grew up with. I can’t wait to see how the things set up in this episode payoff overall. This is definitely a show that is going for the long arc where every episode is a part versus the “Star Trek” of the past that had many stand alone episodes or two-parters. We really didn’t see season long arcs until “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and until more recently, in “Discovery.” So I’ll be taking that into account in my scores for the episodes of this show.

The story follows Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) who went into retirement after Synthetics attacked Mars and the Federation pulled away from helping the Romulans evacuate from the Supernova that would be destroying their home system. Picard has been reclusive during this time, only appearing publicly for an interview. His retirement changes though when the mysterious Dahj (Isa Briones) comes to him for help.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

A Sense of Time – This episode is great at capturing how much time has passed. Part of this is due to it beginning with an epilogue and dream sequence where Picard and Data are on the Enterprise-D playing cards, that ends with the destruction of Mars. Picard is old and he is dealing with that.

Standing Against Fear for Life – The first big event for Picard in the present is his interview. It was originally supposed to be a chance for him to talk about the fallout of the Romulan Supernova. The interiewer doesn’t stand for it though and talks about how the Romulans are the Federations oldest enemy and that the Federation had to look inward after the Synthetics attacked Mars. She uses that incident to question his loyalty to Data. Picard stands up for his friend and for the Romulans, creating waves and showing the person he has always been. It was very much “The Measure of a Man” where he defends Data’s right to life and I loved it. Romulans are just as worthy of life as any human. It was beautifully expressed and was true to one of the core ethical values in “Star Trek.”

The Romulans – In this episode we learn how many of the Romulans became refugees after the Supernova destroyed their homeworld and the system it inhabited. 2 of them (Laris and Zhaban) live with Picard and we see their respect and admiration for him. I hear their backstory is explored in the comic so I might pick it out. They are two of my favorite characters on the show and I can’t wait to see more of them. We also have an enemy faction who destroys Dahj and arrives on a dead Borg Cube called the artifact, hunting her sister Soji. Romulans are my favorite species in “Star Trek” and I can’t wait to see more of them.

Jean-Luc Picard – Picard is a man full of regrets living in retirement who is once again given a reason to live. It is a powerful premise and the first episode handles this really well. We see his regrets in Starfleet refusing to help the Romulan Refugees and that he is still the moral man of old. It is in Dahj we see him care for others too, as her reminding him of Data and being connected to Data gives him purpose and reason to fight on. This is handled beautifully and Patrick Stewart truly owns this role. It is nice he isn’t action hero Picard either (from the films) as that was never realistic and how he feels once more like the ethical intellect and diplomat that made “The Next Generation” so good. I can’t wait to see where the story takes him next and to learn more about what happened to leave him the broken man we meet at the beginning of the show.

The Cons:

At Times Action Over Details – At one point Romulans in black attack Dahj. This happens twice. The first time they kill her boyfriend and she discovers she has abilities. The second time they take her out even though she is right in Starfleet Academy. All that is covered up as is her existence is covered up as well as the attack. It is simply called an explosion on a building. This is a great example of action over detail as we never learn the details of what the story was. What caused the explosion? What was the story on the news given Picard’s recent interview? All of that is left up to the imagination to push the story forward and that is the greatest weakness of the story so far.

This was a strong start to the series and I can’t wait to see where it goes. It is slower than “Discovery” even though the action sequences in this are longer than I would have liked. Give me more time with Picard, Laris and Zhaban. I love his relationship with those Romulans who work for him and are his only friends we really see. It is in the moments of history and Picard facing himself where the episode soars and if the showrunners can keep up this theme and storytelling than this series can be great.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

“The Boys” Season 1 – An Amazing Deconstruction of Super Heroes and the United States

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     “The Boys” is one of the best deconstructions of Super Heroes and the toxic aspects of the culture and politics in the United States that I have seen. I have not read the comics but I am intrigued to see how closely the show takes inspiration from the them. I really liked this show. The characters and ideas are explored so well and the writing is fantastic. Before I get into spoilers, this is a show I recommend to anyone tired of how predictable Super Hero narratives in television and films can become and one looking at a great critique of the power structures and politics in the United States.

The series was created by Eric Kripke for Amazon based on the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.

The story follows Hughie (Jack Quaid) following the death of his girlfriend from the super-hero A-Train (A member of The Seven) seeks revenge under Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and his “Boys.” During this time his friendship grows with the newest member of the Seven Starlight (Erin Moriarity), who discovers how corrupt the Seven and the corporation Vought who runs them truly are.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Seven – The Seven are controlled by the Vought Corporation who created them through use of the drug Compound V. They are the face of the corporation and are used in films, in coordination with the Religious Right and as law enforcement, eventually being used to fight terrorists abroad. They are lead by Homelander (Think an evil Superman) and have members including The Deep, Black Noir, Queen Maeve, A-Train, Translucent and Starlight.

Black Noir – Black Noir is the one character this season who is just doing his job. Unlike all the other members who see be outright corrupt or greedy in different ways, Noir doesn’t talk and just shows up to work. I’m curious to see what we learn about him next season as he is the biggest mystery at this point as a member of the Seven.

Homelander – Antony Starr was brilliant as Homelander. He is charismatic and threatening and his arc involves him finding out the truth about what happened to his son and the cover-up by Vought Corporation. He ends up turning on his lover and boss Madelyn and the implication when he finds his son and how he sees anyone who isn’t a super as worthless means he is probably going to aim to form a fascist regime under him. He is a fascinating villain and I’m curious to see what he does next.

Starlight – Annie January / Starlight is the only member of the Seven who cares about the public and is driven by good. This is true even after she is molested by the Deep and bullied by the members of the Seven. Her arc involves her growing close to Maeve who is burned out but reminded why she wanted to be a hero in the first place by Starlight’s strength. Starlight stands up for he beliefs and doubt of God of at a Christian Right Conference and also stands up against what The Deep did to her. Starlight also saves The Boys and Hughie from A-Train when she learns the truth about Compound V and how her mother used her and how Vought has been using her for their own gain. Her relationship with Hughie is beautiful and she is one of my favorite characters on the show. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes.

The Boys – The Boys are an organization lead by Billy Butcher who are trying to kill the Supers and destroy Vought Corporation. Butcher’s main drive is to hurt Homelander as he believes Homelander raped and murdered his wife. The other members of the group are Mother’s Milk and Frenchie who have worked with Butcher in the past and don’t trust him, the Super Kimiko they save from Vought and Hughie.

Billy Butcher – Karl Urban is fantastic as Billy. Billy is a man driven by hatred and rage and his toxic to everyone around him as he seeks to takeout Vought and the Supers. He is driven by the belief that Homelander killed and raped his wife and this has lead him to care nothing for others beyond how he can use them against Vought and the Supers. Hughie is where we see his humanity as Hughie reminds him of the person he used to be. In the end he is alone when he tries to takeout Homelander until Homelander gives him a revelation that ends the season.

Hughie – Hughie, like Starlight is one of the only good people in this universe. His arc is him finding his courage to take on Vought and the Supers. He is the one who kills Translucent after Frenchie puts a bomb in the member of the Seven but in the end he doesn’t become Billy, as after A-Train tries to kill him and has a heart attack, he tries to save A-Train. This shows his base goodness that exists, even after A-Train had ran through and killed his girlfriend with his super speed. Jack Quaid is fantastic in the role and I’m curious how his character will change now that he and the Boys are wanted.

Deconstructing Super Heroes – What would humans be like if given super powers? What would be the cost of vigilantism? How would an organized group of vigilantes like the super heroes in comics come about? These are questions that are beautifully answered in such comics as “Watchmen,” “Miracle Man,” and is done here in “The Boys.” In “The Boys” supers are made by a powerful corporation using Compound V and marketing the Supers to make money. From here we see the effect this has on the Supers as most of them are corrupt and use their power and fame to their own ends. We see this in the stories of the Seven and how eventually what may arise out of it is fascist control under a Superman via the aims and planning of Homelander in this universe.

Critiquing the Religious Right – The religious right is tied closely to Vought and the governors as many senators have them as their base. From this we see how it is used to justify power. Homelander is preached as being chosen by God to lead and Vought makes money off of all the religious conferences they throw around the United States. It is very much pointing out the nature of power here. You have people like Trump who are irreligious and only after power who the religious right believe in because the leaders of their faith tell them too. What the leaders do doesn’t matter as long as they claim to believe a certain thing, in this case God or Jesus. Their actions do not matter. It becomes power for the sake of power and that is how fascists like Homelander rise, where power is the only thing they believe in. Morality was never part of the story, it was only ever about power and control.

The Cons:

Cliffhanger Ending – The season ends with a Cliffhanger as Starlight is trying to save A-Train from a heart attack after his failed attack against her and Hughie as Hughie and The Boys escapes. At the same time Butcher is with Homelander after Homelander saves him as we meet Homelander’s son and Billy sees his wife for the first time she went missing. It is a gut punch of an ending and I’m curious to see what happens next.

This was an amazing show and I’m glad it got renewed. There are so many big ideas that are explored and the characters are written so well. As someone who enjoys reading Super Hero comics and watching their films and shows, this was a wonderful deconstruction of the ideas that are often postulated in those mediums. How would humans act with super powers? What would this do to the culture? Where would power be? This series presents a depressing picture of it but in doing so critiques the toxic aspects of the culture around power and privilege here in the United States. Suffice to say I highly recommend you check this series out.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

“The Witcher” Season 1 – A Promising Start to This Fascinating Universe

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      “The Witcher” is a series that shows so much promise. This is a world where I’ve played some of each of the videogames (1-3) as well as read some of one of the books (“Blood of Elves”). This is a universe that I find fascinating while it is only the show that I’ve full completed a story. This is the perspective I’m coming from outside of reading the wikis. I have an interest in this universe, but am more of a passive fan. So knowing this, what did I think of it? I think this is a show that shows a lot of promise, and I want to see more. I’ll get into more of what works and doesn’t below.

This is a show produced by Netflix and created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich based on the books by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

The story follows the Witcher Geralt of Rivea (Henry Cavill) as he hunts monsters and wrestles with his destiny as the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) forges her own path and the Princess Siri of Cintra (Freya Allan) discovers there is more to her past than she realizes.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The World of “The Witcher” is amazing. It is one reason I play all 3 games and can’t wait to see where the stories go. This is a world full of politics, magic, drama and monsters where often times there isn’t a best choice. All these aspects (with the exception of politics which I wish had been explored better) are handled well in the show. I can’t wait to see how Netflix explores this world further.

The Monsters – We see dragons, undead and countless other beasts pulled from Eastern European mythology. The designs are fantastic and this show uses a lot of practical make-up rather than leaning too heavily on CGI and it brings the world to life. The monsters also exist among the humans as it is often the humans who are cursing others and changing them into beasts and who are monsters in their actions.

Yennefer – Yennefer has my favorite arc in the show. She goes from an abused girl who has a humpback and deformity from her elven blood and comes into her own as a powerful sorcerer. She breaks from the Tower and makes her own path before eventually returning to defend the rest of the realm with her mentor from the Nilfgaard invasion. Her relationship with Geralt is beautiful as they are the only ones who are open with each other but at the same time are both still so full of secrets each moment of joy comes with one of pain. I can’t wait to see where her story goes. Anya Cholotra did a great job.

Jaskier – Jaskier is the heart of the story in many ways. He’s an egotistical bard who is out for fame but also cares. He is one of the few friend’s Geralt has in the world and has countless adventures with him over the course of the season. I can’t wait to see more of him in season 2. He’s hilarious and also you can’t help but feel for him too given how open he is compared to the guarded personality that is Geralt.

Geralt – Henry Cavill works in this role. I was surprised how much I ended up liking him. You can tell he’s a fan of this universe and he does a great job of bringing the pain and nobility that drives Geralt in his actions. I hope we learn more about the Witchers as so far Geralt is the only one we’ve seen in the show and I have hopes for how they handle Ciri’s arc as the father and daugther relationship that Geralt and Ciri have is one of the strongest parts of the game.

The Cons:

The Ciri Story So Far – Ciri escapes from Nilfgaard after they destroy her kingdom by using her magic (she discovers she has it when she screams). What this magic means and what drives her beyond survival is never really discovered though, and the supporting characters she meets are no “Hound” from “Game of Thrones” even though her plot is very Arya like as she ends up kidnapped or a different group’s hands after she is on the run. After this she non-nonsensically asks Geralt who Yennefer is, and that is where her story ends. Hopefully season 2 will develop her as a character.

Nilfgaard – The Nilfgaard Empire’s expansion is the main threat in the present day story surrounding Ciri. One of the leaders is trying to capture Ciri and destroys her Kingdom and family. We never get what drives their expansionism though, or even what they believe. They are soldiers in black armor and never become more nuanced than that. They are the Empire when in game they are much more complicated.

Destiny – Destiny is what characters use to explain everything. It is used much as “The Force” in “Star Wars” but is even more flimisly handled. We don’t get the logic behind destiny beyond “The Law of Surprise” which is where you can claim something of someone else’s as a reward after a certain time (though it could be anything from a shovel to a child). Why this law exists is never explained either even though it is the only real explanation we see of how destiny works. I hope next season solves this problem.

This is a series that shows so much promise. There are still problems, Ciri’s story was uninspired and she is pretty much kidnapped from place to place while having no real agency and the threat of Nilfgaard hasn’t been defined. We know they are religious fanatics but know next to nothing about how that fanaticism rose and what drives them. This is a shame as they are much more complex in what I’ve played in “Witcher 3.” I want more of that and Ciri to be a character as compelling as Geralt and Yennefer. She isn’t there yet, but there is still hope to have all parts of this series stand strong.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 Boosted by the Geralt and Yennefer stories and the actors in those roles.

“The Mandalorian” Season 1 – For Disney+, This is the Way

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    “The Mandalorian” is the first thing to come out of the new Disney Star Wars that feels original. There are all the trappings of Star Wars but it doesn’t feel tied back to any prior lore and is a solid series as is. It doesn’t need the rest of the Extended Universe to be good and that is where the strength of it really is. This is a space western that explores the life and story of a bounty hunter in this universe and Jon Favreau and handles this amazingly well. There is a beautiful simplicity to the great westerns that this show captures perfectly. For non-spoiler thoughts the only cons that stood out were the cliche writing tropes that happened sometimes and I had a few issues with the final episode. Also, this show is super quotable. You’ve probably already heard “I have spoken” and “This is the way” from the popular culture around you. It was wonderful being part of the experience of it all with everyone.

The show was created by Jon Favreau in collaboration with Dave Filoni, Kathleen Kennedy and Colin Wilson.

The story follows the Mandolorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) on his bounty assignments as his life is changed after he discovers one of his bounties is not what he’d thought it would be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is what makes the world. It feels completely seperate from John Williams’s score and sets the world apart as a western. Ludwig Göransson is truly a master of his craft. I want to check out his other work now. The soundtrack is a big reason I’d watch the credits at the end of each episode, besides the cool concept art that came with it.

The World – This world takes place within “Star Wars” but has none of the major characters. The major antagonist is Moff Gideon who leads a remnant of the Empire but as far as we can see, doesn’t even have a Star Destroyer and his army seems to be made up of mercenaries. This is a world where the Mandalorian people have been nearly wiped out and our protagonist is part of a hidden group in the sewers of a planet. The New Republic is also nowhere to be seen showing that it is a new government and they have never really had an organized Navy in the way the Empire did. The world is beautiful, raw and works.

The Supporting Characters –  The supporting cast of “The Mandalorian” is a big reason this show works. You have Kuil played by Nick Nolti who is the Mandalorian’s (Mando / Din Djarin) first mentor and helps him become the father figure to “Baby Yoda.” His other ally is Cara Dune played by Gina Carano who is Mando’s fellow warrior. There is also his sometimes boss Greef Karga played by Carl Weathers who is in charge of the Bounty Hunters Guild. All of these characters who appear multiple times get development and lore. There are smaller characters like Mando’s former criminal co-workers who he ran with and of course enemies like Moff Gideon who we meet too. All of these characters give life and nuance to the world and show us who Mando is in how he interacts with them.

The Mandalorian – Our protagonist Din Djarin the Mandalorian is a character who tells us so much in his silence. He doesn’t talk much and demonstrates who he is from his actions. We see this when he saves Baby Yoda from the imperial remnant, his defense of a village from raiders and his willingness to give people a chance, even if they betray him. Pedro Pascal is excellent in the role. This is a character ruled by trauma from the Clone Wars when droids killed his parents, and dealing with that hate and distrust is his main arc beyond caring for others again. He never stops being a Bounty Hunter but he finds a way to keep to the good within that code. It is extremely well done and I can’t wait to see where future seasons go.

Okay:

Imperial Remnant – I have a few okays listed because the ideas work in some ways and don’t work in others. For example the Imperial Remnant. The Empire has so many stormtroopers killed and they are the but of jokes, but they also manage to destroy most of the hidden Mandalorians and can be threatening when there is a need. I can’t call them a pro because Moff Gideon hasn’t won on screen yet and we don’t know how powerful this remnant of the Empire is.

Unearned Happy Ending – The ending wasn’t bad, I was fine with it but it could have been better. We have heroic sacrifice, which I appreciated…but Moff Gideon never gets the chance to be a real threat and his Imperial Remnant never feels effective. I’m not putting as a con because I did like Mando and his friends fighting against the Moff, it was just way too happy. Moff is defeated in his Tie-Fighter (but survives) and after Greef just declares victory. It felt short sighted and making the episode happy rather than taking in both the loss of IG-11 and Kuiil.

This is a show that has so much promise. It isn’t perfect but I do consider it great. It had enough characters I cared about, the feel of the world is one I want to spend more time in and the fact that there is more story to tell has me intrigued. My personal hope is that it doesn’t tie itself to closely to Disney’s new lore in episodes 7-9 as I’d like this to be a show that someone who isn’t into “Star Wars” could pick up and enjoy and follow all the way through. I don’t know if this will happen, but that is the hope I’m holding onto for this series. This is a story that doesn’t need any prior lore to keep it strong and I’d like it to stay that way moving forward.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Irishman (2019): A Good Reflective Crime Drama

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      “The Irishman” is a film that would have worked better as a show or focusing in on one story. Scorsese is a master of his craft and the film is beautiful, but I also ended up watching this film over 2 days. This film has some really strong stories within the narrative but at times drags and almost spends a little too much time in a time and place. Without getting into spoilers this is a film I’d recommend though, especially to any Scorsese fan.

The film was directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Steven Zaillian.

The story follows Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) as he recounts his time in the mafia.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – Scorsese has an eye for scenes and this film is beautiful. At times it feels like a documentary capturing snapshots in history, while other scenes become a drama and the tension is palatable and the scenes are personal. Rodrigo Prieto did a great job.

The Soundtrack – Robbie Robertson composed a fantastic soundtrack. It is kinetic when it needs to be and slow when it fits the narrative too. I loved his work in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and he is once again collaborating with Scorsese to wonderful results. I felt in among the characters because of how involved the music was and I definitely plan to use it for writing in the future.

The Core Character Relationships – The core relationships are what make the film work. Frank and Russell (Joe Pesci) have a mentor relationship that turns into a partnership after Russell brings him into the mob and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and Frank have a best friendship that the mob ends when Hoffa becomes a threat.

The Exploration of Time – The film begins in the 50’s when Frank is a truck driver but spends most of the time with Jimmy Hoffa in the 1960’s to the 1980’s. The strongest part of the narrative is our time with Hoffa and I wish that was the story that they had chosen to tell. It is where we see Frank face a dilemma and his choices really change him, besides that he is an enforcer and later leader within the mob and that just isn’t as interesting as his complex relationship with Hoffa.

The Cons:

The Third Act and Pacing – The Third Act and really anytime we are with an old Frank really drag. I didn’t really see the point of it beyond it showing that he in the end he died alone. Whenever we are in the present the film goes really slow and at it was already dragging at points prior. As said above I wish they just could have chosen Frank’s time with Hoffa as everything else doesn’t feel as compelling and is more flavor rather than story. This film is over 3 hours and even with me taking an intermission before finishing it the next day felt like nothing was missed in the interim. That really is what brings it down the most.

I thought this was a really good film. It isn’t as strong as Scorsese’s other work but I loved that he got to work with many actors who he had worked with before. De Niro, Pacino, Pesce are all in their A game and in roles that play to their strengths. The film is also beautifully filmed and the soundtrack is breathtaking. If you are a Scorsese fan, I highly recommend this film. It could have been more but I was still happy with what I got.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10

 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019): A Great Exploration of Insecurity

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      “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a great film. This is a film that stays on the theme of exploring insecurity, while giving us a glimpse into the lives in Hollywood right before the 70’s hit. You can clearly see how passionate Tarantino is about his work and the performances and cinematography are amazing. For my non-spoiler thoughts, I think if you are a Tarantino fan you will probably enjoy this film but there are some areas that I wish had been explored further, which was why this film didn’t make my Top 5 this year.

The film was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The story follows Rich Dalton (Leanardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff (Brad Pitt) as Rich’s career is coming to an end and he struggles with what to make of his life. The story follows the rising star of Sharon Tate (Margo Robbie) and the actions of the Mansons in the surrounding area.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – Tarantino has such a good eye for scenes and this film is a great example of this. Robert Richardson the cinematographer does a beautiful job capturing this as Hollywood feels alive, grimy and fully realized in an era of time.

The World – The world of late 60’s going into the 70’s Hollywood is fascinating. You have the Manson cult running around, you’ve got spaghetti westerns in their hayday and the rise of Italian Cinema and of course the mixture of poverty and excess. Tarantino is clearly passionate about this time period and you can see it in the set designs and characters as well as the catchy soundtrack. This film made me want to check out some more of the films from this era to see more of what Tarantino pulled inspiration from.

The Characters – The characters in this world are complicated and it makes them compelling. Rich is a falling star making sense of himself in a world that doesn’t need him anymore, Cliff is trying to survive in a world where he blacklisted (there is a belief he killed his wife in the film from the Hollywood community), and Sharon Tate is making sense of her own rising star and the world of Hollywood. Robbie, DiCaprio and Pitt are all fantastic in their roles and I’d watch a show of this film to see more of these characters.

The Action and Alternate History – This is one of Tarantino’s alternate history takes as in this the Manson followers who killed Sharon Tate instead go to Rich and Cliff’s house and end up getting killed in the process. The action is brutal in true Tarantino action and getting revenge against terrible people is a Tarantino trope I enjoy. This alternate history leads to Rich possibly getting a second boost in his career too as at the end he gets to meet Sharon Tate and with it becomes part of the new Hollywood that she is a part of.

An Exploration of Insecurity – The common theme of the film is that of insecurity. You see it in Rich’s monologues and breakdowns, in Cliff’s interactions with others where he always has to win, in Bruce Lee starting a fight with Cliff, Sharon Tate in her self-discovery as an upcoming star and in Hollywood itself, always chasing the next big dream. Tarantino explores this through all these characters. Character actions are driven by how people view them and by their own doubts about themselves. It is wrestling with this that characters find balance and some semblance of peace by the end.

The Cons:

Motivation of the Murders – We don’t get to see how the Manson girls got brainwashed and how he kept control and that was something that would have added another layer to the film. The Mansons were cult and we only really get glimpses of how that cult worked. Exploring this further would have strengthened the film and could have been worked into the theme of insecurity as well.

One of the rightful issues with the film was the treatment of Bruce Lee. I can appreciate that perspective but in this case I disagree as it fit the theme of the story. Lee like every person in the story is dealing with insecurity and it is that theme that keeps the story so strong. He isn’t in any lesser light than the other characters who aren’t evil like the Mansons. This film was a joy to watch and I can’t wait to see what Tarantino does next. This was a great film and a huge improvement over Tarantino’s last film “The Hateful Eight.” Seriously, if you are a Tarantino fan, this film is well worth your time.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Top 5 Films of 2019

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2019 was an interesting year for film. There were quite a few types of film I didn’t see. I didn’t see any of the live-action Disney remakes as I had no desire too. I skipped quite a few remakes such as the “Men in Black,” “Hellboy” and “Charlie’s Angels” remakes. I didn’t see any of the Stephen King books adapted to film. I will probably review them at some point but I had no desire to watch them in the theatre. I was much more picky about films I saw this year and it certainly lead to a better viewing experience. I list some of the films I saw this year below and for a few there are reviews upcoming, but they didn’t make my Top 5.

Now for what I did see. For the films I saw this year that were bad were “The Dead Don’t Die,” “Velvet Buzzsaw” and “Glass.” These trashfires all looked great but had stories that were crap. Either there was no bigger point, the characters were unlikable or the story was simply crap.

Most of the films that I thought were good or enjoyable but didn’t make my Top 5 were the MCU films that came out this year, “How to Train Your Dragon 3,” “Rise of Skywalker,” “The Irishman,” and “Joker.” These were films I may or may not see again in the future and were good for the outings they were but left me with no lasting investment. Some were fine ends or complete stories, while others were good experiences that didn’t stay with me after or whose deeper point just wasn’t there or didn’t stick.

For great films that were in competition for making the list so will get honorary mentions here are “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “El Camino,” “John Wick 3,” “Shazam!” “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and “Toy Story 4.” Each of these captured an element of what I love in films and if they didn’t have a deeper point at least were beautifully crafted films that brought more than the sum of their parts.

Now without further ado, here are my Top 5 Films of 2019:

 

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5) Midsommar

Directed by Ari Aster

Last year Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” made my Top 5 films of the year, and he once again pulls it off this year. “Midsommar” is a haunting horror film that explores the themes of trauma and isolation while managing to make daylight and summer creepy. The one thing that keeps this film being higher on the list is the fact that besides the main character, none of her friends are likable. For the purpose of the narrative, them being unlikable works as it plays into Dani’s isolation that she is going through after the death of her parents and sister and the events that take place in the small Swedish cult village celebrating midsummer. If you are a fan of horror films or enjoyed “Hereditary” I highly recommend this film. There are layers of storytelling in this beautifully told horror story and I can’t wait to see what Ari Aster does in the future.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/midsommar-2019-an-amazing-film-about-grief-and-isolation/

 

4) What We Left Behind – Looking Back on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Directed by Ira Steven Behr and David Zappone

I’m a Trekkie and this has been a rough year in regards to that, especially as it relates to “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Aron Eisenberg (Nog) and René Auberjonois (Odo) both died during 2019. In this documentary they feature prominently and we even get to see a hypothetical Season 8 with Captain Nog at the helm. This is a documentary made for the fans and it explores so many amazing aspects of the show and what makes it one of my favorite shows of all time. Whether it is social justice that is explored through sci. fi. lens, the cost of war or countless other ideas these are presented to us by the showrunner Ira Steven Behr as he explores the show he created. Documentaries have never made my Top 5 Films at the end of the year, until 2019. If you are a fan of “Star Trek” and especially of “Deep Space Nine,” you really should see this film. This last year it became even more personal, because of all those left behind, but remembered.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/what-we-left-behind-looking-back-on-star-trek-deep-space-nine-2019-the-perfect-star-trek-deep-space-nine-documentary/

 

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3) Jojo Rabbit

Directed by Taika Waititi

“Jojo Rabbit” is a genius satire and drama that feels like the best of Wes Anderson meets the best of Mel Brooks. The story follows Johannes (Jojo) as he discovers his mom (played by Scarlett Johansson) is sheltering a Jewish girl from the Nazis. From here is his unlearning of how toxic and evil fascism and Nazism is, while dealing with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (played by Taika Waititi). The film is brilliant, powerful, intelligent and full of so much heart. In the era we live now, with the rise of facism around the world and the targeting of the most vulnerable in refugees, immigrants and so many others. This film is extremely relevant to modern day problems facing so many communities around the world and here in the United States. This film is definitely worth your time.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/jojo-rabbit-2019-a-masterpiece-of-satire-and-heart/

 

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2) Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

“Parasite” is above “Jojo Rabbit” just barely and that is largely due to character nuance. This is a film that explores class and privilege in South Korea while giving us some great character studies in the process. The story follows two families. One family is a bunch of cons called the Kims who con their way into fulfilling roles of help that the Park family needs. During the con we see the nuance and complexity to both families as well as how class, whether it is upper or lower class carries on through generations. This is a film where the nuance of the characters grew on me, you see their flaws but they are also not all they appear to be either. Both members of the families have moments of compassion or cruelty which leads to the ending being so powerful and tragic. I won’t give away anymore than that, but I highly recommend you check this one out.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2019/12/19/parasite-2019-a-thrilling-deconstruction-of-class/

 

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1) The Lighthouse

Directed by Robert Eggers

“The Lighthouse” is a beautiful, amazing and disturbing film. This is a film that explores isolation and madness as well as the human desire for connection even in the worst places in the mind. The story follows Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) as he fulfills a contract as a wickie at a Lighhouse of the coast of New England. It is here his only company is the boss of the Lighthouse, the half-mad Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Over the course of the film we see what isolation does to both of them as we are given symbolic visions of what may have brought Ephraim here to the contract in the first place and Wake’s obsession with “The Light” that has an almost religious power for him. I won’t give anywhere than that as you should see it yourself. This is a brilliant phsychological horror film and easily the best performance I’ve seen from Pattinson and Dafoe. I saw a lot of great films this year, but none of them reached the perfection that was this film.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/the-lighthouse-2019-the-haunting-light/