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

Image result for The Mandalorian poster

    “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 Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) – Humanity’s Conflict With Nature and Finding Balance

The Lost World Jurassic Park

     “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” is a great sequel. It is a good thing Spielberg was in charge of it since he is a good director at creating complex characters and giving situations where actual stakes are involved, while still managing to give the film a heart. He is one of the greats for a reason and him directing the follow-up to the original was the right decision.

  The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, written by David Koepp, produced by Gerald R. Molen and Colin Wilson and based off The Lost World by Michael Crichton.

    The story involves Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) going to Site B, the Island of Isla Sorna to rescue his girlfriend Dr. Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore) who has gone there in order to record Dinosaurs in their natural state for a documentary so that humans won’t exploit them. They are too late and things get complicated when Hammond’s nephew Ludlow (Arliss Howard) arrives with a team to capture the Dinosaurs and take them to a park in San Diego as well as the arrival of Malcolm’s daughter Kelly (Vanessa Lee Chester), which complicates things further.

The Pros: The Cinematography – Janusz Kaminski did a wonderful job and as expected Spielberg has a good eye for how to cast a scene. The character scenes as well as the action scenes mean something and we get the chance to get to know the minor characters by how the action is presented.

The Soundtrack – John Williams is one of the greats for a reason and in this his soundtrack is great at creating tension and rising action. Each action scene felt big because of his soaring score.

The Action – This is one of the better action movies I have seen. There are so many moments that I remember and will remember. I’ll record the ones that stand out the most as they deserve recognition.

Hanging By a Rope – Van Owen and Harding rescue the trapped Tyrannosaurus baby and after they fix it’s leg the parents destroy the van, eventually this leads to it falling over the edge and it is only from the actions of Eddie Car releasing a rope through the van that they are able to get to rescue. Eddie dies in the process though.

The Raptor Hunt – At one point the hunters are running and the Raptors methodically take nearly every single one of them out. It is only the few that survive through luck and quick thinking showing just how dangerous they are.

The Tyrannosaurus Hunt – The T. Rex proceeds to cause chaos in the camp for the capture of it’s child. One of them is captured by Roland while the other slaughters the hunters the Raptors don’t get too.

the Tyrannosaurus in San Diego – This is quintessential Monster Movie here as we see a T. Rex escape from it’s cage and proceed to decimate San Diego. It is really well done and a lot of the destruction caused is simply from people afraid that it exists. It was very well cast and showed once again just how dangerous this creature is. I liked it.

The Characters – There are quite a few great characters in this! From Dr. Harding and Dr. Malcolm and the hunter Roland as well as the Earth First activist. Each of them are more complicated than any archetype, which leads to some great interaction and character growth over the course of the film.

Eddie Carr – This minor character dies to the T. Rex’s but not before he saves his friends. He idealizes Dr. Harding but we see he is good at his job too as it is his creativity that saves our heroes in the first place. Richard Schiff did a great job and his death meant something.

John Hammond – Hammond has changed from the industrialist to the conservationist and it is a really good arc the events at “Jurassic Park” changed him. He is wonderful as the wise wizard who has learned from his mistakes while still being wily and reckless.

Nick Van Owen – I don’t like Vince Vaughn, he tends to be a dick in real life and his characters he plays. This character wasn’t as bad and him being a dick worked as he was an extreme activist who put others at risk to rescue animals. He is never presented as the good guy but you get why he is doing it too, especially since these dinosaurs are endangered by their very existence and he wants to safeguard that.

Roland Tembo – Peter Postlewaite does an awesome job in this role! He is the hunter who lives for the thrill of it and has respect for the animals he hunts as he sees himself as fulfilling his greater purpose. When his friend is killed on the Island though he decides he is done after he captures the T. Rex and has had enough of death. I don’t think he’ll stop hunting but he won’t work with people like Ludlow anymore…folks who don’t value human life.

Dr. Sarah Harding – Julianne Moore plays the naive idealist who learns to not be reckless around dinosaurs while still fulfilling her mission of saving the ones on the Island. She saves Malcolm a few times which makes up for times he had to save her in the beginning. She is a strong character who does what she wants.

Dr. Ian Malcolm – Ian is the nervous scientist played by Jeff Goldblume who carries on the lessons of “Jurassic Park” about keeping dinosaurs away from human beings. He is the Spock to Sarah’s Kirk and his arc is learning how to feel for others better as we see him have to put himself out there to protect Sarah his girlfriend and to protect his daughter and support her beyond words. It is a great arc and it is him coming into his own as a person who can look beyond himself.

Respect for the Natural World – The message is through Hammond’s action. He was a man who wanted people to feel wonder and live the vision he created, on his death bed though he only wants the creatures he created to be respected as he realized he didn’t before by keeping them in cages. It is to this end that he sent them on a mission to protect his creations. It is a good arc since the Dinosaurs aren’t idealized, they are animals like anything else and deserve the chance to flourish. This basis of respect while still not forgetting humans creativity in development is part of what makes this film so great.

A T.Rex is still a T.Rex (even if you save it’s baby) – I really like that part of respect is respecting the space of hunters, be it humanity or the T. Rex. The heroes save the baby T. Rex but there van is destroyed by the T. Rexes. The nature of a T. Rex does not change and the saving of their baby doesn’t change the fact that T. Rexs eat smaller animals which include humans. I’m glad that in the conversation talk it was still smart. A tiger will still try and kill you, even if you return it’s cub back.

Okay: Peter Ludlow – Hammond’s nephew is all about making InGen profitable again but he does nearly have a change of heart when the T. Rex is reeking havoc, he only changes his mind when he realizes that the T. Rex baby could be his only out from facing major consequences for his stupidity. He was alright as an antagonist.

Kelly – Child actors have a difficult time and Vanessa Chester does alright as Kelly. She is a daughter ignored by both her parents so she acts out for attention while still trying to be successful to impress her folks. Her arc is finding confidence and building a relationship with her dad. I did think it was stupid she kicked a raptor using gymnastics, but besides that she wasn’t a bad character, just not a great character.

I remembered liking this more than “Jurassic Park” as the Dinosaurs felt like actual animals and T. Rex’s won’t save the day against Raptors since they want to eat you too…this is part of the reason I’m curious if it will still be the case when I get to “Jurassic Park.” Which will be better to me, the original or the sequel “The Lost World?” Well, well see when I get there.  Suffice to say I enjoyed this film greatly and would watch it again. It is definitely a favorite.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10. Solidly great film.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003): Feels Like a Made for Television Movie and Misses What Made It’s Predecessors Good

Terminator_3_poster

     This was not a good film, not by any stretch of the imagination. At it’s best it is a forgettable action film that misses the entire point of what made the other 2 films good and at it’s worst it is an example of so many of the things Hollywood and the Studios can get wrong about making films. Where the other films had memorable characters and stylized ways in which scenes were cast this one has forgettable character and cinematography that looks like it came out of a low budget television movie. For an end to a trilogy (an end that wasn’t needed in the first place) this one missed the mark by a long shot.

    The film was directed by Jonathan Mostow and written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris who also did the story with Tedi Sarafian. The film was produced by Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels, Hal Lieberman and Colin Wilson.

    The story involves a T-X being sent back in time to kill all the resistant leaders before they have the chance to join John Connor while John Connor is just trying to survive. When the T-X discovers him her mission changes as she hunts him and his future wife Kate Brewster. From here the story unfolds as Future John has also sent back an updated Model 101 to defend them and prepare John for Judgement Day.

The Pros: Nick Stahl – Nick Stahl does a great job as John Connor, but he is given such a horrible script that nothing can be done with it. This movie is a terrible joke that he is in the middle of and his talent is wasted here, he does a good job with what he has though.

Okay: The Action – Some of the action sequences are decent, like the fight on a moving crane as cars chase Kate and John but some are pretty bad too, especially since the action serves no purpose. We know Arnold is the Terminator and after “T2” we are supposed to root for him I guess? So none of the action serves a purpose, John and Kate also never get the chance to stand on their own, they always need to be saved from the T-X.

The Cons: The Writing – The writing is just bad. It keeps trying to take the one liners from “The Terminator” and “T2” to bring back nostalgia but fails terribly. It also tries to make the new Model 101 literal and not know human nature but know it enough to create awkward jokes about mating…and recycling catch phrases. This script hurts the mind. There was no effort in creating it.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is forgettable. It’s liking watching a SyFy original movie or something made on a really low budget with zero creativity. Nothing is emphasized and characters and moments are forgotten as nothing is focused on…this is an example of what not to do.

T-X – T-X is the sexualized Terminator. She appears and always chooses the partner of whomever she is hunting and it even has her licking blood sexually to recognize who she killed. What a joke. She is meant to be super-powered but she only manages to kill the Model 101 who we all knew was going to die anyway and should have never been in this film in the first place. This is the kind of villain you’d see in a terrible B Movie or an original SyFy movie…basically this villain is an insult and a joke. She feels like a character that was created in a board room where they thought that people like models who are good looking and sex sells so lets put it in a Terminator!

The 2nd Model 101 – The first Model 101 had an arc, this one is just a plot device. If John needs to hook up with Kate the Model 101 will provide the means, if John needs to toughen up the Model 101 will grow his anger…and if someone needs rescueing or the T-X needs to be killed, the Model 101 is here. There is no character and the only reason Arnold was brought back is he is such an iconic part of this Series but he can’t carry it. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese carried the first film and John Connor and Sarah Connor carried the second one. The Model 101 in “T2” was a good supporting character because he changed and was a character, this one is a plot device and a poor one at that. It is a cynical play at nostalgia.

Kate Brewster – Kate is there for John and that’s it. Her whole point is to become his wife so she isn’t given any choice. She is wholly defined by her Father who is in charge of the new Skynet and John who was her first kiss and future husband. She has no agency and is always running. She helps trap the T-X at one point and she traps John when he breaks into her clinic at the beginning and nothing else. She was a wasted character…like most of the characters in this film.

Forgettable Characters – There are a few minor characters who would later join the resistance who all get killed and there are some blank characters like Kate’s father and fiance who die just to advance the plot and get John to the area where he can lead the resistance as the world is ending. They are there and I didn’t feel their deaths at all.

Sexualizing the Terminators – The T-800 steals his clothes from a stripping gigalo but he is never sexualized the one Female Terminator is we see. From licking blood off her finger, to killing the future resistance members by luring them in…there isn’t even an emotionless robot thing going on. This Terminator doesn’t feel like a robot at all and all that is played up is the tech and sex…

Bad Comedy – The Terminator Model 101 doesn’t get sex, he had catch phrases and repeats phrases back like “I cannot each shit and die.” It was going for humor but it feels so forced and no one is in it or cares (and the writing doesn’t help) so it just comes off as fake and stilted.

Inconsistent Tone – Brutal deaths intermixed with terrible jokes and the end of the world and us wanting to feel hope at the end now that John is fulfilling his destiny and leading the resistance for humanity? There is no theme, there is no focus and there is no consistent tone. It is just bad.

James Cameron should have been the one to complete his trilogy. Rarely does trading writers and directors because the studio wishes it…lead to anything good. This film is it’s own special kind of terrible and there is nothing good to say about it beyond it having serviceable action and Nick Stahl doing the best he could with a really crappy script. This film was clearly a cynical cash grab and it shows. There is no soul in this film and it was hoping that attaching “Terminator” to the title and having Arnold make an appearance again that it would be saved…missing the point of the second one that the only reason the T-800 returning as Model 101 worked was due to him being the enemy of the first film and how it’s existence helped Sarah Connor to grow and see a new perspective, and also to show us that Terminator’s could change too. This film has none of that, there is no depth, the character arcs that are there are forgettable and predictable and the end of the world, “Judgment Day” happens and it doesn’t mean thing. This film was a waste and is not worth your time.

Final Score: 2 / 10