Tag Archives: Hector

Coco (2017): An Amazing Pixar Epic That Explores Family and Love

     Pixar has done it again. “Coco” is easily the best film their studio has put out since “Inside Out” and is definitely in my  Top 5 films made by the studio. This is film full of beautiful creativity, action that matters, a powerful message and enthralling characters. For my non-spoiler thoughts, this is Pixar and it isn’t a sequel, go and see it. Hopefully “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” will have been taken out before you see it too, I’m doing that as a separate review but it was the worst part of the viewing experience.

The film was directed by Lee Unkrich, written by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich and produced by Darla K. Anderson.

The story follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) a young boy who wants to be a musician but whose family has abandoned music after their ancestor left his wife long ago and never returned to become a musician. From here he finds himself pulled into the Land of the Dead as he seeks his ancestors blessing in order to return to the Land of the Living before he a curse he brought about sets in on himself and his family.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – This is easily one of the best looking Pixar film since “Inside Out.” Like “Inside Out” it is colorful and full of contrasts and our characters are each distinct both in look and the voices portraying them. This is also Pixar, so great animation isn’t too much of a surprise, it just really stood out in this film.

The Family and Their Dynamics – The main drama that drives the story is Miguel’s relationship to his family and the relationship between his last known living ancestors. The story starts out with Miguel wanting to be a musician and believing the famous celebrity who died named Ernesto de la Cruz is his ancestor because of the picture on his mantel and the fact that he was from his village. His family does all they can to keep from music (his grandmother even breaks his guitar), leading him to go the Land of the Dead where he seeks de la Cruz’s blessing (as his ancestor Imelda will not give it). The story unfolds from here as the ancestors try to get him back to send him home so they won’t be cursed and as the story unfolds we learn more about Imelda’s relationship to music and her missing husband as the family comes together over the course of the film.

The Land of the Dead – The Land of the Dead is wonderfully done. It is a mixture of eras and technology and they even have a travel system on Day of the Dead where your face is checked to see if someone has put your picture up in the Land of the Living. It is all creatively done and built on popularity (with Ernesto de la Cruz being the star). I wanted to see more of this place as we get to see the entrance and the city but also the underbelly where Hector lives where those who are forgotten live before they pass away forever.

Hector and Imelda – These two were my favorite characters and their drama is the core of the story as Hector went off to be a musician and was killed by Ernesto when he tried to return home. Because Imelda was living on her own supporting Coco she started her family’s obsession with shoes as that was how they built a livelihood. Their arc is coming together again and taking down de la Cruz as Imelda discovers her love of singing again and Hector becomes part of the family once more as they are both reunited with Coco a year later after she dies.

The Coco Scenes – Coco is an ancient old woman and Miguel’s Great Grandmother. For much of the film she doesn’t interact at all, except for calling out her father’s name. It is this way until the end when Miguel returns and plays her song, “Remember Me,” that Hector used to sing to her before he would travel and do concerts. We learn she held onto his songs and a portion of the photograph her mother had torn and through remembering Hector he is remembered and doesn’t die in the Land of the Dead, with Coco joining her parents a year later. It is powerful and I teared up when Miguel sings her the song that Hector always had.

Okay: Ernesto de la Cruz – Benjamin Bratt voices a great villain as Cruz is one who only cares about seizing the moment and holding onto his station in life. He killed Hector and nearly kills Miguel, all to keep his power. I wish he’d been more complex, but as a villain you think might be a good guy at first, he was fun, so not a con.

Entering the Land of the Dead – Miguel enters the Land of the Dead when he plays his father’s guitar. There isn’t a reason given minus the border between worlds being thin, so I wish we had been told more. It wasn’t bad but it just kind of happens and he becomes a ghost.

This is a film that might have you tearing up by the end, as it did me. Films like this are why Pixar is so loved and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I’ll be buying this film when it comes out and it is easily one of my favorites of the year, even if it may not make the Top 5. The main story is solid, the emotional core is strong and the world is amazing. The only things they could have improved on were the villain and how Miguel entered the Land of the Dead.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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“Westworld” Season 1 – A Beautiful Masterpiece and Exploration of What it Means to be Human and Honoring a Friend

       This is going to be a different review than what I usually do, as this was originally going to be a collaboration with my friend Athen. He was going to write about the cinematography as that had always been of his and I was going to do my usual character and themes focus…He was killed by a drunk driver and I want to do this review to honor him. He was one of the most amazing of friends and this review is in honor of him. As part of this I won’t be discussing the cinematography as that is what he was going to cover.

     “Westworld” is the kind of show that tackles the big questions of self, humanity and morality. It was the kind of show I think he would have loved, which is why I think it was recommended to us both at the party where the idea for the collaboration was born.

    The story takes place in the future on a planet where tourists can go and let off steam in a place where they can’t get killed and robots play the roles of humans in a wild west format. From here the story unfolds as we get glimpses of the past and present as the mystery of Westword (the planet) unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is a beautiful sci. fi. landscape that reminds me so much of the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” with the Hosts in the place of the Cylons. There is so much politicing at play both in the game of Westworld and outside of it among those who want to control the world. It is a fantastic mystery to unravel and Season 2 is setup really well.

The Soundtrack – Ramin Dwajadi is one of the best composers out there and his beautiful style is on display here as well. It captures the mystery and emotion that pervades the tone of the show and also the characters that inhabit the world.

The Characters – The characters are the best part with my favorite being Bernard, who we find out was created by Ford after his partner who wanted to bring sentience to the hosts is killed. Jeffrey Wright did an amazing job. Anthony Hopkins as Ford the current owner of the park is fantastic as always too with the Man in Black as an unknown threat seeking the point of the game, Maeve as the prostitute host who remembers and rebels and Dolores the one tied to the Man in Black’s past and bringing about freedom to the hosts in the park/world. All of these characters and even the corporate suits characters are enough of a draw to drive the scenes, even when there is filler.

The Narrative Format – The narrative format jumps between time as we come to see Dolores’s past and how it relates to the Man in Black and his corruption into a villain, Bernard and the man whose image and legacy he carries on as a host, Ford and his manipulations to bring about freedom for the hosts and Maeve’s story interwoven in real time through it all.

Are We Simply Machines Holding Memory – This is a major theme of the show and it is something that Ford would argue that we do. He makes this argument to one of the suits trying to stop him  and in a sense it plays into how willing he is to kill people, to him they are just like his machines, except he didn’t create them…so he doesn’t care. This gives him a fascinating perspective as he is a contradiction…the man who both cares and doesn’t care.

What Defines a Person? – Is it memory or personality? Nature or nurture? We deal with this question in how Maeve forms her identity as she realizes it all is a lie but comes to embrace the  core programming of the belief she as a daughter (even though it was a past story and life) and that is what brings her back even as she knows about he wider world. Westworld, still pulls her in. Her memories she was given still define her experience and shape her personality and choice.

The Ending – the ending is powerful and ends with the hosts rebelling as Dolores kills Ford and the hosts turn on the Board. Bernard who has just learned he is a host a little while ago, watches on as do other hosts who are still figuring out who they  are as Maeve returns to Westworld to find her daughter. It is powerful and sets up Season 2 beautifully. HBO really did create an amazing show.

The Cons: Maeve and the Lack of Oversight in the Lab – At one point Maeve wakes up and holds the Doctors who repair her hostage. How no one notices her walking around with them or her holding them hostage had me baffled. Shouldn’t the hosts have better security? There is a fear in the world of them hurting people so why not oversight? Suffice to say, Maeve had a lot of plot armor through this arc.

“Westworld” Conclusion – “Westworld” is a show well worth your time if you are interested in Sci. Fi., especially as it relates to A.I. and what it means to be human. There is amazing character development and the world is rich enough that there is still so much to be explored, even though Season 1 is very complete, even with the rebellion starting at the end. I can’t wait for Season 2 and what else we will learn about ourselves, the hosts and the universe of “Westworld.”

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Project A10 – Athen’s amazing girlfriend created this project. I highly recommend watching the video.

Please remember not to drink to drink and drive, as you never know what life you are going to take away and how many lives you are going to touch. Life is fleeting and you never know the power you have on the lives of others, for both good and ill. It was a person’s stupidity that took away a friend, please don’t do the same.

R.I.P. Athen. I miss you.

“Better Call Saul” Season 2 – Pride, Love and the Different Paths of Corruption

Better Call Saul Season 2 Poster

    “Better Call Saul” is a show that may surpass “Breaking Bad” in the end if it continues to have this level of quality in storytelling and character development. From the minor characters to the big ones I’ve come to care about them in different ways (though not Chuck) and can’t wait to see where their stories go. The major themes this season were the different roads to corruption…ranging from love and wanting to impress another, to pride and all the pros and cons that come with it.

    Vince Gillian and Peter Gould is a truly an amazing storyteller and the way he expresses character and themes and intertwines them so richly is just masterful.

SPOILERS ahead

The story continues Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) path to becoming Saul. This season he becomes a member of his brother Chuck’s (Michael McKean) Law Firm. Things aren’t all they are cracked up to be though…Elsewhere Mike (Jonathan Banks) is pulled deeper into the world of the Cartel.

The Pros: The Cinematography – Arthur Albert continues to shoot beautiful shots in this, especially in regards to the isolation of Chuck, Jimmy and Mike. They are all different types of alone and he uses darkness and light in a space to show this, creating some stunning storytelling.

The Soundtrack – Dave Porter did a great job with a soundtrack, the soundtrack gives  a feeling of desolation but manages to create moments of hope, humor and power within it.

The Writing – Vince Gillian and Peter Gould once again have wrote gold. Whether it is characters, themes or events…they capture the action of it all so well. In this season we truly get how the Saul character came about and by the end can guess what prompts the name change.

The Characters – Gould and Gillian are amazing character writers and the characters are what really drive the action of the show. There are many more “Breaking Bad” cameos but none of them feel shoe-horned in. They fit the story and events and are a part of it.

Lawson – Jim Beaver is fantastic in this! This is his return and we see him helping Mike choose a gun a few times. He plays a guy who loves his weapons and can also be generous with them too. He’s all business yet personable.

The Cartel – The Salamanca family and the Cartel are a fascinating group who we never really fully got to know in “Breaking Bad,” this season explores more of their history and the politics of their organization as Hector is still healthy so we see how he runs his area of the operation.

Leonel and Marco Salamanca – The Twins are back! These two don’t do much but the aura of threat they give off is impossible to get away from. Whether it is showing Mike they could kill his Granddaughter from his pool, or just hanging around as Hector’s bodyguards. You don’t mess with these guys.

Tuco Salamanca – Tuco is back when Nacho contracts Mike to kill him. We see how much this guy scares everyone around him and how everyone knows he’s unstable and crazy. After what went down last season between him and Jimmy it is great to see him in relation to Mike who ends up getting him arrested, though later Hector frees him by having Mike lie to the police.

Hector Salamanca – Mark Margolis is back as Hector and Hector is in his prime with no threats that he knows of. This leads to him walking all over Mike which almost leads to his death, until someone stops Mike from taking the sniper shot. Can’t wait to see how this character ends up in a Wheel Chair.

Nacho Varga  – Michael Mando continues to humanize a character that would be a bit part on any other show. In this we see his main goal was just power and surviving and Tuco going to prison made that possible. He’s in deep with Mike though and has a respect for him even though he sees Mike doesn’t kill and he thinks that is stupid. I don’t see him surviving the series just due to how dangerous the Salamanca’s and the Cartel are.

The Protagonists – The protagonists are really the big drivers of the action and the main protagonists this season are Kim, Mike and Jimmy…each bringing us a different perspective on the choices they make.

Kim Wexler – Gillian and Gould finally know how to write a fully well rounded female character and Rhea Seehorn plays it masterfully. In this we see her go from cautious to finding pride in her work and going Independent with Jimmy. She is also there holding Jimmy in check and reminding him to not leave a trail as she knows Chuck wants to destroy them both for not being under his power.

Mike Ehrmantraut – Mike has been developed so much more in this show versus “Breaking Bad” and I love how it has been handled. We see an ex-cop who goes full mercenary and in the end is ready to kill another, which is one thing we’ve seen him swear off many times this season. Someone stops him from killing Hector and I think it is Gus as he wants a much more complete revenge against the man who wronged him.

Jimmy McGill – This season we see everyone around Jimmy likes him more than Chuck. From Chuck’s wife, to their mother and most of the people at the firm. This envy leads to Jimmy being targeted as well as Jimmy’s own wanting to do his own thing. This season we see how the look of Saul comes around as he’s inspired by a balloon person and begins being a terrible person at the office so they’ll fire him but he can still get the money from the case he brought them. Odenkirk is awesome as we see a man acting from his love of Kim but also his need to do his own thing and be free. I really like Jimmy, in the end it is his love for his brother that may cost him all he’s built…as his brother records him admitting to a felony.

Independence and Agency – Jimmy and Kim represent this best as we Kim sticking with the Firm even as she’s walked all over, while Jimmy seeks a way out and has a hard time accepting them as working together but not partners. He does come to accept it because he loves her, while the Firm keeps trying to take away all she built. This story is a constant dance as we see Jimmy’s extreme agency leads to him illegality and also ability to be manipulated by Chuck, while Kim though she was miserable was in a stable position with money.

What Makes a Good Person? How Do you Measure it? – This is a question the show poses and we see represented in Chuck and Jimmy. Jimmy does a lot of questionable things, but they often lead to good ends and often come from a place of love. Chuck follows the rules and is a manipulator who does everything for pride an ego. They are the inversion of one another’s intentions and through them and other characters this question and measure of the what it means to be “good” is explored.

The Ending – Chuck uses his “condition” to manipulate Jimmy into admitting he changed the papers and replaced them back as we see Chuck will go to any length to bring his brother down.

Okay: Chuck McGill – He isn’t sympathetic, which is a shame as he’s acted really well. More could be done to humanize him I think as I sympathize more with the Salamanca’s than I ever could with Chuck. They are honest in what they are…Chuck is just an awkward sociopath who wants to hurt his brother.

Cliffhanger Ending – If the show was canceled I’d hate this ending, but knowing it probably won’t be i’m okay with the cliffhanger, with the note on Mike’s car saying “Don’t,” and Chuck recording Jimmy’s confession secretly. So much happens and the way they ended it is like a punch in the gut.

This season was nearly perfect! The only things that could have been handled differently were the cliffhanger ending and humanizing Chuck more. all he does is act cruel and manipulative. I get he hates Jimmy but he must have loved him at some point too, or he’d have never got him out of prison. I hope Season 3 will humanize his character more as we see the fallout from the choices made this season. Peter Gould and Vince Gillian are two of my favorite folks in television right now. “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” are some of the best stories I’ve ever watched and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10