The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 1 – “The Pilot” – Horror Meets Wonder With a Great New Companion

   I’m worried about how the rest of the Series 10 and Capaldi’s run as 12 will go. Moffat and Gatiss ran “Sherlock” into the ground and there is enough time for him to do the same for “Doctor Who,” as for “Sherlock” it only took about 1 1/2 Seasons to do so. Right now he’s starting out strong though! I really enjoyed “The Pilot,” it captures all the beautiful adventure, horror and wonder that comes with the best of “Doctor Who” and sci. fi. time travel exploration. So, before I get into further depth, this one is worth checking out.

   The episode was directed by Lawrence Gough and written by Steven Moffat.

    The episode involves the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) lecturing at a college as a Professor until Bill (Pearl Mackie) a fish and chips cook is pulled into his life when he notices her at all of his lectures listening. She is soon thrown into the unknown though when her crush is taken over by a mysterious puddle, pulling her and the Doctor together as they try and stop the alien from taking away Bill.

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic as we get to see the Doctor take up the role of professor, a role he clearly enjoys as both 1 and 10 have both done it at different times in the human world as have other incarnations in the extended universe of the Doctor. This love of knowledge and sharing it is part of what makes the series so inspiring and great and it is on display by having it all take place a college with a woman (Bill) who is not even a student sitting on lectures because of her desire to learn.

Nardole – Nardole is still with us after we picked him up at “The Husbands of River Song,” and through the last special too. Matt Lucas is great at being the awkward loaf who is fearful but can find courage (helps the Doctor trap some Daleks in the episode) and calls out the Doctor on his blind spots. He’s very much the Doctor’s assistant in this so I’m curious to see if his role will be explored further, I’m not quite sure why he’s sticking around.

Bill – Bill is an amazing companion (don’t mess this up Moffat!). She is down to Earth, has a desire to learn and doesn’t let lack of money stop her, she is alone in many ways and that loneliness ties to the Doctor in how they connect as their desire to learn and for connection is key. It is her reaching out to her crush that leads to the alien targeting her. She is strong and stands her ground too when the Doctor attempts to wipe her mind as she helps realize how messed up that is and that the adventure was her first happy memory in a long time.

The Doctor – The Doctor has gone from not just the protector of humanity but also helping them learn about time travel as the lecture we see him doing at the beginning is him teaching about the meaning of TARDIS. In this way he is helping humanity thrive and become the force they are in the future. His arc is realizing that his past mind wipes were him being selfish, leading to him not wiping Bill’s mind and choosing her to be his companion as she helps him see things differently and realize and correct his older bad habits.

Okay: The Antagonist – The antagonist is the weakest part. It is sentient oil puddle that is also a space ship as it takes Bill’s crush as the Pilot and tries to take Bill as the passenger. It can some how warp through time and track the TARDIS and what it actually is is never fully explained. I liked the play on Ring type horror it did with anything it mimicked being wet and dripping water but felt it needed to be explored more. It could have easily been tied to the Waters of Mars, which would have really made it a horror story.

  This is a strong start to Series 10 and I’m really hoping it stays that way as Gallifrey and Clara being ruined last season almost made me stop watching the show. Gallifrey needed a good story tied to it and Clara’s choice to die should have been respected. She had so many great good-byes that got canceled out. I don’t want Bill or the 12th Doctor to suffer the same fate. They deserve better and hopefully Moffat can end as strong as he started.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 Antagonist is the weakest part.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Good Casting Keeps This Film at Level but the Film Never Reaches Great

   This was the first official “King Kong” movie I’ve ever watched. My familiarity with this genre as far a giant ape interacting humans was only the remake of “Mighty Joe Young” that Disney made back in the 90’s, though culturally I’ve always been familiar with the great ape and the tropes that usually surround his genre. Tropes that I find troublesome that this film does a good job at not using (presentation of islanders as Cannibals ready to sacrifice visitors and of course Kong being attracted to a human lady). Avoiding these tropes gave the film strength, though it suffers from other issues that keep it from reaching greatness.

    The film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, and produced by Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Thomas Tull and Mary Parent.

    The story takes place at the end of the Vietnam War as Bill (John Goodman) wants to get his organization Monarch (organization that researches monsters and was in the last American “Godzilla” movie) to Skull Island while U.S. Forces are still near the Island. He gets the approval is joined by a tracker named James (Tom Hiddleson) an anti-war photographer Mason (Brie Larson) and troops lead by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who when they all reach Island realizes what information Bill was holding back and that Kong is not the worst threat on the Island.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic! It is our world but with untouchable islands, monsters underneath the ground and giant creatures that feel complicated emotions and are more complex than us at times.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and really captures the beauty and danger of “Skull Island.” This movie has a lot of color, which is a nice change of pace from WB’s coloring everything in drab and grey (Hell the DC Cinematic Universe). This helped give the story more life when the dialogue wasn’t cutting it.

Colonel Packard – Samuel L. Jackson’s character is very much a Captain Ahab as he is overwhelmed by what he thinks the war took from him (the U.S. leaving Vietnam he took to be his own failure) and in turn he is itching for a fight. We see him become obsessed with taking out Kong after his men die when they bombing Kong’s Island. It finally ends with one of his men turning on him as his care for them lead to his obsession with killing Kong and that being all that mattered. Jackson truly is remarkable in the world.

Hank Marlow – John C. Reilly plays a half-mad pilot from World War 2 who made friends with the Japanese pilot who crashed on the island with him and with the people in the tribe. He is a fun character and we see him facing his fear of the Skullcrawlers and in the end he gets to meet his wife and son back in America. I enjoyed his arc and really enjoyed how this role showed just how great Reilly’s range is.

Kong – Kong is humanized in this! In the film he protects the tribe from the Skullcrawlers who come from below. Kong is the last of his kind and we see him judge humans based off how they treat him. There is a lot of great emotion shown in his eyes on a few different scenes and it is wonderful when we see him team up with the heroes to take out the gaint Skullcrawler.

Okay: The Characters – This is an ensemble cast and because of it being an ensemble cast I never felt that we got to know anyone outside of 2 characters. Mason and James tell us a lot about themselves, but we never see it. They are ciphers that we can put ourselves into but that doesn’t make good character. Goodman’s character gets some exploration too but he ceases to do anything once he reaches Skull Island. His tory is taken over by Colonel Packard. The other two members of Monarch don’t get any exploration at all and are just kind of there. Most of the characters die randomly as well.

The Tribe – The tribe is non-verbal and worships Kong. I like how they are presented in that they aren’t the usual cannibals that these films sadly take the path of doing and they are still complicated as in you mess up their sacred areas, they will kill you. I didn’t put them as a pro only because they exist as one unit when they should have been more explored as individuals.

The Cons: The Sullcrawlers – Like the villains in the new American “Godzilla,” these guys are kind of lame. They are giant two legged lizards that eat and kill anything. They are monsters but their design isn’t memorable or unique and they never felt like a giant threat. Colonel Packard felt like a larger threat than these guys ever were.

Structure is a Mess – At first it looks like Goodman’s Bill is the main character, than he gets killed off and the film tries to make Mason and James the main characters, but that never works because they aren’t written fully formed so minor characters like Reilly’s Hank or antagonists like Packard take over the weight which leaves the structure imbalanced. The ending is also left open as we see that the U.S. army clearly sees Kong when he screams to them. This was stupid given that the film was over and they should have just returned home. In that way I think Franchise management is a big part of what ruined the structure. We had to know we’d see Kong later (that didn’t need to be shown) and in doing so editing the script or better exploring a main character fell to the wayside.

   In the end I still enjoyed this movie enough to call it a good B movie. It isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. It is well cast though which fills in some of the lack of character development as both Hiddleson and Larson have great charisma in their roles, which keeps them from becoming a con. I also enjoyed the idea of Kong as a protector and how fantasy the movie felt with all the giant monsters living under the ground (“Pacific Rim” style almost). I’m curious to see what else happens in this universe and after this film, I may have to give the other “King Kong” films a chance.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004): A Reason to Live

Kill Bill

“Kill Bill Vol. 2” completes the Bride’s rampage and ends with her confronting Bill and the fallout from all she has been through. The three assassins who are the targets this time are Budd (Bill’s brother) Elle and Bill. This was my second time seeing it and my assessment of it in relationship to “Vol. 1,” is that it is the weaker story (still great) but with some great moments of payoff.

Here is the assessment:

Pros: Music – Is still great, but “Vol. 1” has the better soundtrack, especially the music during “Chapter 5: Showdown at House of Blue Leaves.” The music is solid though and enjoyable to listen too.

The Script – Tarantino’s wit is still greatly in play with his salutes to Kung Fu, Western’s and at the beginning even a bit of a Noir retelling of what went down at the Two Pines. The confrontation with another assassin while she is pregnant and advocating for her unborn child is a powerful scene too.

The character – Are solid with Bill, the Bride, Elle and Budd getting the most exploration. Most of them have changed in some way and grown, except Elle who loves to be bad for the sake of being bad.

The cinematography – The bride climbing out of her grave and the black and white flashback at the beginning are worth mentioning as great moments of cinematography this Volume.

Chapter 6: Massacre at Two Pines – The flashback starts out strange with the Bride telling us the story, but it pickups when we got to her reception and see what connections are real (friends, husband?) and fake (in-laws) and of course the X factor (Bill). We know that the child is Bill’s due to “Vol. 1,” and we see more of the master and apprentice dynamic before Bill betrays her.

Final Chapter: Face to Face – This is where we see Bill’s attempts to mess with Bill and the Bride’s daughter’s mind and his justifying his evil to their daughter. It is terrible, which makes the Bride’s revenge at the end all that more rewarding.

The moments of Revenge and Victory: Taking out Elle’s other eye, breaking out of the grave she was buried alive in (by using what she learned from Pai Mei) and taking out Bill (again using what Pai Mei had taught her completing her arc as the new master). These made up for some of the weaker moments in okay chapters.

The fallout – At one point the Bride is crying on the floor after she has saved her daughter. It is here where all the monstrous things have really come to the forefront and her finally having to live…which she does as we see when she goes out and talks to her daughter. It captures the bittersweet of all that went down. The bitterness of all that was done to her and the betrayal and the sweetness of revenge and being able to move forward and live.

Okay – The rest of the chapters are alright. The training sequence isn’t really memorable beyond the montage afterword and her learning how to use her entire body (both hands) to eat rather than eating with her hands.

Cons – Like the first one it drags at times, but it is more obvious since the music, script and scenes aren’t as great as “Vol. 1,” with a few exceptions here and there.

“Kill Bill Vol. 2,” accomplishes what it needs to in regards to the Bride becoming the Master and finding her daughter and getting revenge. In the end she finds a reason to live beyond revenge, her daughter and this is powerful.

The pros and cons are much stronger in this Volume because it is the conclusion. Because of how it lags and the fact that some of the chapters just weren’t as well written and executed as the first Volume which is by the superior volume. It has a great payoff though and in the next article I will judge both volumes as a whole. In regards to “Kill Bill.”

For these reasons I would give this an 8.5 / 10.