The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air – A Promising Start That Crashes at the End

      “The Legend of Korra” is one of my favorite series even though it is quite flawed and those flaws are very apparent in “Book 1: Air.” Before I get into the flaws I want to talk about the reasons you should give it a chance and watch it for yourself though. The first book introduces us the industrialized world of “Avatar” and gives tons of great characters and ideas to be explored. For these reasons alone I’d recommend the series. Now for what doesn’t work the ending is mostly bad, the reveal of the villain is awful and the romance is not good. Besides these flaws I’d recommend checking “The Legend of Korra” out.

The series was created and written by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (the same creators and writers behind “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

The story follows the new Avatar Korra of the Southern Water Tribe as she deals with the Equalist revolution lead by Amon in Republic City as she tries to learn the element of air.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation and Soundtrack – I’m putting these two together as they remain consistent throughout the entire show. Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn were behind “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and that consistently great soundtrack is once again apparent here. They capture the mystery and action extremely well in their compositions. The animation is also beautiful in how blends 3D and 2D using 3D primarily for vehicles and buildings while 2D is for the characters and world.

The World – Seeing the world and how it has changed after the death of Aang is awesome. Republic City is such a cool idea that arose out of a place for all benders and creating a place where all should be equal not under Earth Kingdom or Fire Nation rule (they were once Fire Nation Colonies). But out of this a new structure arose. Benders clearly have privilege and the Triple Triads were a threat that non-benders were facing from the time of Aang all the way up to currently. Because of this and a police force with floating blimps around the city that are metal benders…no wonder the Equalist revolution began. Non-benders have no recourse in this modern world and no defense besides the very Benders who might be oppressing them.

The Equalists – The equalists are the main threat of the series and they are fascinating. Lead by Amon we see them gain power over time as Tarrlock, the Waterbender councilmember gains more power in his fight against them and ups his oppression of the non-benders in the populace. Amon the leader manipulates this as the popular revolution grows eventually leading to a total takeover of the city as Amon takes away bending from any benders he captures.

Katara – Katara is the White Lotus member who lets Korra escape to Republic City. She is a grandmother at this point and is the one person we see not attached to the past in the way so many other characters are ruled by it. She is there to support Korra as a mentor but wants her to have the freedom to make her own choices. We also learn she is the strongest bender healer in the world but is unable to heal Katara at the end of the series. I’m glad she was back but wish she could have given us more information on what happened inbetween.

Tenzin – Tenzin is the son of Aang and Katara and is Korra’s airbender teacher in Book 1. J.K. Simmons voices him and does an absolutely fantastic job. He has 3 kids and a 4th by the end of the show and they are his main motivation as he seeks to protect them from Equalist threat. Tenzin is easily the most stubborn character on the show besides Lin Beifong and also the most grumpy. His kids are polar opposite which creates a great dynamic in their interactions. He is the only councilmember to resist Tarrlok’s rise and is the one to reveal Tarrlok’s lie.

Lin Beifong – Lin Beifong is the daughter of Toph and in charge of the police in Republic City. She clashes with Korra but they eventually develop a mutual respect for one another as they both have the same aims of protecting the populace. They both also have their bending stolen by Amon and are similar in temperament. Korra is very much like an Earthbender in her mentality.

Bolin – Bolin is the Sokka of the group as he has a lot of jokes. He is also the first to accept Korra and is the reason she joins Pro-bending and from there is where Asami, Bolin and Mako become part of Team Korra. Bolin has a crush on Korra but he gets over it pretty quick and remains her steadfast friend. He is the glue of Team Korra and is the first to experience the Equalist threat as he barely escaping having his bending taken away by Amon.

Asami – Asami is my favorite member of Team Korra and she has so much crap happen to her this book. Her father is an Equalist leader who at the end tries to kill her. Mako, her boyfriend is kissed by Korra (when she is with Mako) and Mako eventually leaves her for Korra. She is the background helping on multiple occasions and all she gets is ignored or scorned. She was right to have anger the entire time. She is an awesome fighter and a great partner who Mako didn’t deserve. She stops her father and is one of the heroes of the story and she deserved so much better.

Tarrlok – Tarrlok is the waterbender councilman who takes advantage of the Equalist threat to rise in power. He is shown to be bad from the get go as he spends his introduction trying to manipulate Korra. He succeeds for a while until he starts targeting civilians and Korra leaves this leads to him capturing her and his ability as a bloodbender is revealed as well as him being son of the strongest gangster in the series, Yakone. Eventually he does help Korra after Amon takes his power and it is revealed they are brothers. His last act is a murder suicide when he destroys the boat that he and Amon are escaping on. He was a great character and I wish he’d been the main threat in Book 1 and that Book 2 would have involved Amon and the spirit world.

Amon – Amon is the leader of the equalists who has found a way to take people’s bending via bloodbending. His story is that his family was killed by firebenders who scarred him and that the spirits chose him to bring balance once again to the world. This is the Amon I like who we see through most of the series until Tarrlok’s story. His real name is Noatak and it was his father Yakone’s abuse that lead him to hate all benders. This motivation isn’t bad it is just the lie that is and weakens how powerful he is. Amon spends most of the series besting anyone he fights and he even captures Republic City and rules for a little bit. All of that is handled great it is just the liar revealed that ruins this fascinating character.

Yakone’s Story – Yakone’s story is the main connecting point of the series as in the past we see Toph taking him in to go on trial as he’s been abusing members of Republic City with his bloodbending. At the trial we see his bending is so powerful he bloodbends the entire councilchamber and escapes. Aang only manages to beat him by going into the Avatar state and spiritbending away his bloodbending. His story does not end though as he escapes to the Northern Water Tribe and has 2 sons, Noatak and Tarrlok who teaches bloodbending. His teaching is abusive leading to Noatak running away and a few years later he dies with his children becoming 2 different reactions to his dreams of control.

Fear of Equality in the Rise of Fascism – One of the themes of this book is the power of fear and how it can give rise to facism. We see this in Tarrlok’s militarization of Republic City (when he takes control of the Police Force) and in Amon’s military takeover where Sato military technology allows him to take control and having the populace at his back leads to him purging benders of their power. The two are reactions of fear of the other and I do appreciate how this was written, though again, I wish Tarrlok had been the boss in Book 1 and that Team Korra would have had to work with the Equalists to take him out and free the non-benders.

The Cons:

Mako and Korra – I like Korra as a character but she isn’t my favorite and that largely because of how her story is handled and this romance. She knows Mako is dating Asami and kisses Mako anyway, sabotaging that relationship. They have nothing in common beyond fighting the same baddies and being talented benders which made this feel so lazy as far as writing goes, not to mention this relationship hurt the best character on the show.

Coding Tarrlok – One Tenzin’s kids asks why Tarrlok has 3 braids and “smells like a lady.” This felt like gay coding as every character is a man who is with a woman and Tarrlok being single is out of the ordinary. I hated this gay coding as bad as Tarrlok is an awesome character but he is never shown to us as anything more than a villain, other or tragedy.

Amon as Liar Revealed – Amon has a fake scar (he could had it burned in a fight or burned it himself at the very least) and is shown to be a bender. I hated this as it made him being a hypocrite so him being a true believe in the evil of benders didn’t matter. He’s so powerful that we could have had his story involve Koh the Faceless (he does wear a mask) and the spirit world and I’d have been fine with him even being a bender but giving it up for spiritbender. This would be so much better then him being a revealed hypocrite whose eye color and face change when he lands in the water. It felt so lazy and nearly ruined one of the best villains to come out of this show. He could have been so much more and this “Liar revealed,” nearly ruins his story. In the end the series cared more about Yakone’s legacy then the core fight Amon was fighting and him learning his ability from spirits.

Airbending Was Never Learned it was Given – For a while in the series we have Korra learning the physical act of airbending when she learns to flow in the combat of pro-bending. After this nothing more is done to advance her training…instead she randomly gets  the ability when Amon takes her bending. He takes her bending but she gets airbending…this makes no sense.

Deus Ex Aang / Avatar – You can tell that the writers didn’t expect to have another season as Korra gets all the elements back and goes into the Avatar state when Aang’s spirit randomly gives her the ability. She also somehow learns how to give other people back their bending too. Nothing here is earned more makes sense. It feels rushed and lazy and Korra never learns the ability just like she never really learned airbending. This was so rushed and lazy. Deus Ex’s are one of my least favorite story elements and this is why.

In the end I did still like the first book. The show is great at times, especially in Amon’s rise to power and Tarrlok’s manipulations. I also liked the new characters and I do find Korra to be a compelling Avatar. This was a series that expected to be canceled and it shows as at the end it was so rushed and lazy that the ending really does crash at the end in a lot of ways. This is still worth checking out though as it sets the stage for the later Books of the series.

Final Score: 8 / 10 This was a good but flawed season. I liked the villains through most of the show and the new characters are compelling even with some of the very bad writing choices that were made in the end.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016): A Solid Part of the Series and Becoming a Teacher

kung-fu-panda-3

     Dreamworks has two great Franchises that still manage to put out great animated films. Those Franchises are “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda.” These are series that take inspiration from their worlds (fantasy, Kung Fu films) and keep the characters and plots real and at times deep, while still managing to have a sense of humor. “Kung Fu Panda 3” is no different, though I think “Kung Fu Panda 2” is the better film, which I’ll go into at another time when I go through the first and second film.

      “Kung Fu Panda 3” was directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni, written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and produced by Melissa Cobb.

    The story involves Po (Jack Black) being found by his father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and returning back his father’s village to learn the art of chi when Kai (J.K. Simmons) breaks free from the Spirit Realm and is seeking to consume everyone’s Chi. Po must learn the art before all fall before Kai and the Masters whose chi he possess and now controls.

SPOILERS ahead

 The Pros: The World – The world is a fantastic fantasy world populated by humanoid animals that live in China. We have far off villages like the Panda one that are almost Tibetan in theme and also the main city with the Jade Temple which is reminiscent of Beijing. The world feels lived in too and the heroes who walk among the people are celebrated as such, like celebrities.

The Animation – The animation goes between classically inspired painting in telling back stories or montages, to the flowing 3D that makes up most of the film. It truly is beautiful.

The Soundtrack – Hans Zimmer creates an amazing score and pulls on classical Chinese music for a lot of his score. It is wonderful and pulls on the heart strings and elevates the action when it needs to, but I wouldn’t expect any less from Zimmer who is a master of his craft.

The Characters – The main characters are fantastic and have great moments that give them complexity and reason for their actions. This is a character driven story and it is the relationships that inform the action, like any good action movie.

Li Shan – Bryan Cranston plays Li Shan (Po’s Father) and does a great job as a man who lies to be with his son again as he says the Pandas know the art of Chi (even though it has been lost to time) and spends time connecting with Po’s adoptive father Mr. Ping and in the process helping Po realize that he isn’t alone, which saves his son multiple times.

Mr. Ping – James Hong is an amazing voice actor and I’ve loved him in his role as Po’s adoptive father Mr. Ping. We see him go through jealousy when Li Shan finds Po but also him get over it as he becomes a part of the Panda Village and gets the chance to be a father again to all the baby Pandas as well as council Po in the coming battle when Po feels only alone.

Master Shifu – Dustin Hoffman is a great actor and he has the chance to shine here as the one challenging Po to be better and that he still has much to learn. Sadly we don’t get to see him at his height as Kai consumes his chi, leaving it up to Po to rescue him. In the end he has humility though and asks to learn the art of chi from Po after the final battle.

Grand Master Oogway – Oogway’s chi is consumed in order for Kai to enter the mortal realm and through it all he is the one guiding all of them as it was the Panda’s of old who made him realize that it would be there that that the Dragon Warrior (Po) would be born. In the end Po gets to say good-bye to him too and we see how much of Yoda type figure Oogway has always been.

Kai – I liked Kai and not just because J. K. Simmons voiced him. This is a character who felt left behind as he watched his friend who he saved found peace…and he couldn’t stand that. He was a general so to him power was things and this what leads him to take chi from others. In the end his greed consumes him though as he misses the point of what power really was.

Po – This is the film of Po not only getting comfortable in his skin but becoming a teacher of others as he realizes it is playing to peoples’ strengths that can help them master themselves. He also is saved by the village when Kai nearly consumes his chi as it is in him realizing all his different identities that he realizes how he is the Dragon Warrior and uses his infinite chi to explode Kai as Kai’s body is unable to contain it all.

Finding Self – Finding self is a major theme of the the film as Po doesn’t really know who he is beyond being a warrior who cares about his friends. It is only after he becomes a teacher that he begins to realize how much he doesn’t know again and that who he is, is a part of everyone else. It is this individualist yet collectivist belief that he becomes the Dragon Warrior.

Power in Community – Kai is alone and uses others as slaves in order to take more. Po is someone who is dependent fully on others and it is in that difference of the many versus the one that his full power is unlocked. One stick can break easily, but it is harder to break a bundle.

Taking v. Serving and Enlightenment – The other theme of the film involves taking versus serving…all the characters who grow are those who learn to see outside of themselves and their own selfishness. Li Shan tells the truth, Po serves others, Oogway defeats Kai the first time by protecting others. This is where true power is unlocked in the film.

Family is Greater Than Blood – Mr. Ping is not Po’s blood and the movie makes a point of that, and it also makes a point of showing that Mr. Ping is Po’s second father and that he needs both of his fathers and it is because of both of them he lives and has grown to be who he is. This is an awesome message that really illustrates that family is greater than blood.

Okay; The Other Masters – Master Mantis, Monkey, Snake and Crane are all comedic relief and Master Tigress is relegated to action hero who doesn’t get to make any choices. This is sad as they got some great exploration over the last two films. They aren’t ever annoying but this was a missed opportunity.

The Pandas of the Village – There is a line between comedic village and real people and I don’t know where the Pandas fall on this line. So I’m putting them at okay.

Kai’s End Game – Was he going to conquer the world after consuming everyone’s chi or did he plan to just consume forever? I wish this had been set down a little better.

      This was a really good film, for me it was “Finding Dory” levels of enjoyable, though it didn’t reach original Pixar quality like “Inside Out” or even touch the perfect film of “Kubo and the Two Strings,” but it worked for all that it was. This is Dreamworks paying tribute to Kung Fu films and taking the philosophy into the film while giving us fun and comedic characters…as well as drama and family. If you haven’t seen it or any of the films in this Franchise, go and check them out. If you have kids they will love it and the world is so much deeper that it appears at first glance, just like the Kung Fu films it draws inspiration from. The action is used to make a larger point and tell the drama of people who show us the ways we can grow as well.

Final Score: 9 / 10 I’d rate it higher if Kai had been explored better and if the other Masters had been treated better and not just played for comedic relief.

Zootopia (2016): A Masterpiece Exploring Prejudice and Communities

Zootopia Poster

   “Disney Animated Stuios” is pretty much the new Pixar in regards to quality animated storytelling. “Pixar” is now where old Disney used to be as they are releasing tons of sequels and it isn’t ‘garutneed they’ll make a hit (unlike “Disney Studios”). Seriously, “Big Hero 6,” “Frozen,” “Wreck-it-Ralph.” These are films this studio has put out and now “Zootopia” is up there among them as one of the best animated films I have ever watched. Much like those this film is intelligent with characters, comedy and themes and gives us a lived in world without a powerful story we can relate to our own world and ourselves. Before I get further and into spoiler territory, go see this film.

    “Zootopia” was directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore while being written by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston and was produced by Clark Spencer.

SPOILERS ahead

    The story involves Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) moving to Zootopia to become a cop and finding out that the ideal world of animals that were once Predators and Prey isn’t the peaceful utopia she believed it to be. Together she must work with a hustler named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to solve the case on why certain predators are going feral and help save the city.

The Pros: The World – The world is awesome! It has a bunch of anthropomorphic animals and unlike a lot of “Dreamworks” films they don’t exist as jokes. There are fully fleshed out cultures and societies (of the the carnivore and herbivore variety) made to reflect our own, rather than satire pop culture…but that is the quality I’ve come to expect from Disney Studios.

The Animation – The animation is beautiful as Zootopia is split into different regions…from the Metropolis at the center, desert, rain forest, etc. It all flows together beautifully and I love how they show when animals go feral with the red eyes.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of the film as their histories are what inform the film, especially between Hopps and Wilde, who really carry the film. This is a film that is honest about it’s characters and in turn honest about our own basic humanity, with all of the pros and cons that come with it.

Mr. Big – Mr. Big is the gang lord of the Arctic region. He is an Arctic shrew who is pretty amazing as he helps our heroes once he learns that Hopps saved his daughter and in turn he makes her family and forgives Wilde for conning him.

Chief Bogo – Idris Elba is awesome in this! He plays a giant Water Buffalo who is the police chief of Zootopia. He has his own issues to work through as he doesn’t take Hopps seriously until Wilde calls him out for his prejudice against smaller animals and his belief they can’t be cops. He grows a lot and becomes of the few characters who remains a hero throughout the film.

Nick Wilde – Jason Bateman is fantastic as Nick, who is a tragic figure who had gotten beaten up by some herbivores as a kid because he was a carnivore, as they beat him up and muzzled him. From this we get why he doesn’t trust people and why he lives the sly fox stereotype. His friendship with Hopps is awesome as he helps her grow and she helps him grow as he becomes someone serious and stops conning others.

Judy Hopps – Hopps was beat up by a fox when she was little and her family hates foxes due to their experience in the countryside. That all changes when she goes to the city and befriends Nick. It is from there that she has to face herself when she helps the Assistant Mayor target predators when she blames their going feral on their DNA. From here there is one of the most touching scenes when she apologizes to Nick for all she’s done and they go to takeout the Assistant Mayor.

Prejudice and Communities – The main prejudices explored here are those based on body (Hopps ignored by the Police Chief and force) and carnivore vs. herbivore as the herbivores fear the Predators and vice versa due to times fear and hatred have been acted upon characters. We see this in how the Assistant Mayor uses the fear to limit predator opportunities and making Hopps a hero. It is when Nick and Judy get past their prejudices and Chief Bogo does too that they are able to take out the Assistant Mayor and her sheep who want revenge for being used and oppressed and wants to end the existent of carnivores.

The Cons: The Mayor and Assistant Mayor – I felt that these two were never fully explored. The Mayor was just someone taking advantage of the media to be better liked while the Assistant Mayor preyed on fear. There was so much more that could have been done with all of them. The mayor being a bully didn’t seem like a logical reason to target all carnivores.

Too Much Shakira – She is in this as Gazelle and she is everywhere. Seriously, at times this film feels like a Shakira commercial. I hated it as this city should listen to more people both in the news and music. This was the one thing that really took me out of the film.

  This was an amazing movie even if the Mayor and Assistant Mayor didn’t feel fully developed as characters, and there was way too much Shakira (and I like Shakira) as at times it felt like one giant music video selling her, especially at the end. These cons are overwhelmed by the positive though as the world is amazing and the core characters all go through character arcs that humanizes them and gives them depth. There is a lot to like about this film and I would not be surprised if it ends up making my Top 5 Films this year.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

“Gravity Falls” Season 2 – A Brilliant Animated Show That Captures Mystery, Tension, Character and Adventure

dGravity Falls

    Alex Hirsch truly created a brilliant show with “Gravity Falls.” He described it as “The X-Files” meets “Twin Peaks” meets “The Simpsons.” From here he melded comedy, drama and mystery together perfectly as it is the characters who drive the story and who change after events happen in their lives. This season was extremely rich, even though the payoff wasn’t quite perfect…it still managed to be great.

      This is a show I will be returning back to review episodically at some point as well, it is just that great.

    The main plot of Season 2 is the mystery surrounding Grunkle Stan and the device he is building beneath the shack as the answers to this help us uncover the other mysteries surrounding Gravity Falls and the characters who live there.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Animation – The animation style is unique and flows and fits the mystery of Gravity Falls as well as the colorful nature of the characters who make up the town.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is beautiful, especially the theme song which Bill Cipher (the demon who brings about Weirdmageddon) changes. Brad Breek did a fantastic job!

The Mystery – The mystery of the Journals is a driving part of the plot as we see that Grunkle Stan has one of the journals and uses them to build a device to bring back his twin brother Ford who was trapped in another dimension. It’s a powerful mid-season finale and great payoff to the secrecy surrounding the town as all the mysteries come mostly back to the Brothers Pines.

Grunkle Stan Versus Zombies – At one point in the first episode of Season 2, Dipper summons a bunch of zombies and we see how amazing Stan is as he manages to take out most of them before performing karaoke with Dipper and Mabel which is what’s needed to cause the zombie heads to explode. It’s a great way to kick off the season. There are also two FBI agents investigating Gravity Falls too.

The Characters – The characters are the best part of “Gravity Falls” and it is how they are explored, which drives the plot. This season went in depth with all the main cast as well as a few side characters too who received some great development.

.GIFfany – .GIFfany is awesome! She is a sentient program from a Japanese dating sim who destroyed her creator and fixates on Soos. When Soos eventually ends the relationship she tries to kill him and his girlfriend but in the end is stopped. I really liked her obsessive character.

Gideon – Gideon goes through an arc over the course of the series as he is a villain serving Bill for much of it but finally comes around when he realizes that Mabel would be ashamed of what he’s doing and that her being trapped is not them being in a relationship. This leads to him with the prison escapees trying to take on Bill. Later on we see the prisoners have become his protectors.

Tyler Cutebiker – Cutebiker wins the election for Mayor of Gravity Falls and is the calmest head around. We see this in Tyler’s confrontation of Bill in Weirdmageddon to the acceptance speech. This character is a lot of fun.

Blubs and Durland – These are the police of Gravity Falls who love another and have a cute relationship as Durland isn’t bright at all but Blubs is always there for him and they make a good team in their ineptness. Them admitting their love for one another at the end is a sweet scene.

Blendin Blandin – The time traveler from last season is back and challenges Mabel and Dipper to a game of death. He loses and changes from it when he sees that they didn’t know they had ruined his life. He also comes to their aid with the Time Baby to take on Bill Cipher, though they don’t end up being successful.

Candy and Grenda – These two are wonderful! Grenda ends up with a prince because she of her blunt nature, Candy dates Dipper briefly and throughout it all they help Mabel get over her obsession with a boy band and a bunch of other things. These were great supporting characters.

Pacifica – Pacifica is a bully to Mabel and we soon learn why she is the way she is when we see her parents are high strung and emotionally abusive. She is the one to redeem her family when a past man the family wronged is turning everyone into wood and she must let the townspeople into the mansion. It’s awesome and though she puts on heirs later she shows that she has changed and isn’t the elitist she used to be. I really liked her character and hope they had done more with what came of her arc.

Mid-Season Finale – The portal opens and Mabel, Soos and Dipper have to trust Stan as we learn that his brother wrote the journals and was trapped in an alternate dimension this entire time…and that is why Stan has been so secretive as everything he’s done has been to get him back.

Old Man McGucket – McGucket was a tech guy who was brought in by Ford (Stan’s brother) who ends up going insane when he looks into the alternate dimension so he forms an organization to help the townspeople forget the weirdness of the Falls…this eventually leads to him going insane and becoming mad with power as it his his tech that’s been fought on multiple occasions. Luckily in the final he gets his shot at redemption.

Soos – Soos is the loveable nerd who is Stan’s trainee as he seeks to learn all he can to eventually run the Mystery Shack. His arc this season is finding confidence as we see him date and eventually get together with Melody (a fellow nerd) after he moves beyond the dating sim and when Weirdmaggedon hits hes the most prepared and becomes a hero to the populace, wandering and doing random acts of heroism before moving on. He is a great character.

Wendy – Wendy is a great character and in this we see her break up with Robbie (when he was mind controlling her with his music) and set down boundaries with Dipper as their friendship grows. She continues to be the trouble maker on the side and when Weirdmaggedon comes around she is the survivor as her family always sent her off to survival camp for Christmas, she is the epic hero of the new Gravity Falls besides Soos and she helps Dipper save Mabel and the town.

Ford – Ford is Stan’s twin brother who was always the genius and had the chance to get into an amazing university until Stan sabotaged it since he wanted to travel the world with him. This eventually leads to Ford exploring the paranormal leading him to Gravity Falls and a deal with Bill Cipher which costs him greatly, leading him to research on how to stop Bill. He’s never been a people person so his arc is resolving things with his brother and building a relationship with his niece and nephew. J.K. Simmons is great as his voice.

Mabel – Mabel’s arc this season is one of letting go, whether it was the boy band she was raising in her home as pets, or the paradise of never having to leave Gravity Falls (which she makes a deal with Bill Cipher over). She does eventually learn how to let go though and her grappling hook comes in handy in the final assault against Bill Cipher and his minions.

Dipper – Dipper’s arc is dealing with boundaries and masculinity. We see this when he dates for datings sake without any emotional investment and tries to be a player like Stan (both of them end up hurt) and in his sabotage of Wendy and Robbie’s relationship. In the end he keeps the friendships he built though and finds those are what matters most. He also realizes the danger of the diaries too when he summons zombies to show that Gravity Falls is supernatural to the FBI. He teams up with Wendy when Weirdmaggedon hits.

Grunkle Stan – Grunkle Stan is a liar, con man and theif whose entire life is a bunch of mess ups that is he is trying to atone for. From ruining Ford’s project, to the fight with Ford that lead to Ford falling into an alternate dimension and everything else. Stan’s arc is for redemption as we see his love for his Mabel and Dipper motivates him to be better and not a coward. He’s my favorite character in the show and I really like how they handle his story in the Finale.

Weirdmageddon

Weirdmageddon – Bill Cipher creates a hellscape of Weirdmaggedon (and gets a physical body) after he make a deal with Mabel to get what he needs to bring his dimension into ours. It’s a twisted hellscape where he turns the townspeople into stone to use as a chair and is populated by being who only want to cause destruction and mayhem. It really shows how powerful Bill is and what the town of Gravity Falls is up against to free themselves from the end. Weirdmaggedon is confined only to the falls though, thanks to smart thinking on Ford’s part and placing a barrier around the town. I really respect Hirsch for creating this nightmare in a kid’s show and changing the theme song to boot to go with it.

Bill Cipher – Bill is the big bad and eventually wins for a while thanks to Mabel making the deal. The demon loves chaos for chaos sake and we see just how powerful he is as he takes on the Resistance’s mech on his own and takes out Ford easily in the first few minutes of Weirdmaggedon. For this reason his defeat is rewarding as he won so thoroughly after Mabel made the deal.

The Resistance – The Resistance is great! There is a Unicorn, Gnomes, a Manitaur and quite a few others. When Mabel and Dipper join them they turn the Mystery Shack into a mech via Old Man McGucket (who finally uses his power for good) and take on Bill at his castle so they can free the town. They are amazing and I’d have watched an episode of just them and their interactions. The picture below is of the members of the Resistance.

Grunkle Stan’s Sacrifice – In the end Grunkle Stan saves the day and risks his mind for his kids as Ford knows how to drop the barrier around Gravity Falls so he and Stan switch places, tricking Bill so that the mind-eraser can be used on him. Thanks to Stan the day is saved and Weirdmaggedon ends.

Gravity Falls Resistance

The Ending – The ending deals with the aftermath as the mayor says that they won’t speak of the day again since no one understands what happened anyway and Ford, Mabel and Dipper deal with a Stan with no memory so share a scrapbook of the summer to help him remember everything again! After they have to say good-bye though and Dipper and Wendy swap hats to remember each other and she gives him a letter, Mabel keeps her pig Waddles and Ford and Stan go on an adventure together to fight monsters on the ocean as Stan gives Soos the Mystery Shack. It’s a sweet ending that captures the relationships of the show really well.

What I would have Changed – The fact that this happened over a summer limits the possiblities, and this is Disney and after how horrible Weirdmageddon was to the populace I get writing a happy ending. I wanted Grunkle Stan to have his memory lost though, Bill is a powerful demon and if it’d been permanent it would give the audience the chance to deal with it within their own lives in regards to family with Alzheimers. The fact that it was only a summer limited the chance to explore that though so it was still really good but I would have had it be permanent or have a character death (yeah, I’m horrible).

This is a show that is well worth your time. The animation is beautiful, there is a great antagonist, the characters change over time and the drama and mystery that drives the plot has great answers at the end. The tension never leaves the show because of the drama and mystery and in the end, the ending is touching and really shows that Dipper and Mabel have changed from their experiences at Gravity Falls, and that in the end, they always have next summer.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 (Not going to give a perfect rating to since the Dipper dating episode didn’t really work and the “Dungeons and Dragons” episode was kind of weak). The FBI agents didn’t work within the show either and felt tacked on. Besides these things, this is a show I’ll be coming back to. It is easily one of the best animated shows ever made.

Gravity Falls Characters

Terminator Genisys (2015): Terminator Referynce With a Great Missed Story

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    “Terminator Genisys” had the potential to be the best of the story, wholly original and able to stand on it’s own, without referencing any of the past “Terminator” films. Sadly I’d be expecting too much from the studios and writers for that to become a reality and because the film tries to be all the Good Terminator films it fails to stand wholly on it’s own. It isn’t the worst of the “Terminator Franchise” by any means and it is enjoyable in it’s own right, but it falls short because it lacked the confidence to continue on threads that weren’t dependent on past films.

    The film was directed by Alan Taylor, written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier and produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg.

    The story involves John Connor (Jason Clarke) leading the final assault on Skynet headquarters in the Post-Apocalyptic future of 2029. He suceeds but not before Skynet sends back the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to terminate Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). He decides to send back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in order to protect her. When he returns to 1984 he finds a Terminator has already been sent back to protect Sarah and the timeline has changed. It is up to them to stop Skynet before it comes online as the Timeline is in flux and the future has changed.

The Pros:  The Action – The action is really good in this. From the battle to reach Skynet’s Time Machine and shut down the core, to Pops against The Terminator and Pops, Reese and Sarah against the T-1000 and later on the fights against John Connor as the T-3000. Each fight was really well done and a pleasure to watch.

The Special Effects – The Special Effects are the best they’ve been. When the original Terminator travels back in time he looks nearly like how Arnold looked as he did in 1984. The Terminators also look great too having a dangerous and sleek look to them.

The Final Assault on Skynet – This is the story that I wish the movie had been. I wish we could have witnessed the consequences of the war like we did in “Salvation” and how it had shaped John Connor into someone who was willing to take any risks to defeat the machines and to live. In the end the decision to send Kyle Reese back is made as Skynet’s Avatar attacks and turns John Connor into a Terminator. It’s really cool and if that had been the film with the resistance dealing with the consequences of that it would have been perfect and possibly the best in the series.

J.K. Simmons – Plays a cop who is saved by Reese and pays them back later when the T-3000 is trying to kill them all. His character is wonderful as the one who has seen the robots but no one believes him. I liked the character and it was a nice touch that was different from the other films. Detective O’Brien is a great character.

Arnold Scharzenegger – Arnold is the best part of this film. We see him save Sarah Connor at the beginning and that he has developed an affection for her. It is the most range I have seen Arnold do and he truly is great at this role (Minus “Terminator 3”).

Pops – Pops is the protector and Guardian of Sarah Connor and saved her as a child. We see that his goal is to protect her and stop Skynet (like the one sent back in “T2”) and to this end he trains and prepares her for the arrival of Kyle Reese and “The Terminator.” When the Terminator arrives together they kill it and later he gets upgraded when he falls into the liquid good of the T-1000s in the final battle against the T-3000. He develops an affection for Kyle Reese and a sense of humor too.

The Terminator/T-800/Pops – This role is small but Arnold is great at looking and acting threatening, beating down Pops and nearly killing him if not for Sarah Connor’s sniper shot. It was a great though his defeat kind of defeated the purpose of Skynet’s last ditch effort to save itself…though the writers kind of ignore that when they throw in the T-1000 in the same timeline and later the T-3000. He is called Pops by Sarah.

Jason Clarke – Jason Clarke is carrying this movie with Arnold and lends a lot of humanity to the role of John Connor as someone trying to make a difference and survive in a cruel world where humans are going extinct. This leads to some tough decisions that come back to bite him later. Clarke is great as the threatening T-3000 too.

John Connor – John Connor is a man on the brink who has lost so much and forced his soldiers to make tough choices. This has cost him a lot and at the end when he is victorious his one moment of joy costs him his conscience as he is turned into a Terminator and no doubt turned on his own men he was protecting.

T-3000 – The T-3000 is a Nano Terminator and is one of the best of them as he can mimic almost perfectly and has all the knowledge of Skynet and John Connor. It takes everything to defeat him including Skynet’s last resort Time Traveling Machine to finally end the threat.

Okay: The Ending – Pops gets upgraded and everyone is in 2017. It was way too happy for me as we see Sarah and John begin to hook up, Pops respect Reese and Reese talk to his younger self and give him hope for the future. If they have sequels planned I have no idea how they will pull it off. There are no evidence of Terminators and everything feels done now without opening more cans of worms in the Timeline(s). Also, somehow the Skynet system core survived? I guess it fits the theme of survival of the story but we shouldn’t need an after credits scene to know that it does. That’s a bit too important to leave until after the credits.

The Cons: Kyle Reese – Jai Courtney can’t act. He is super generic and dull as a character and either has a blank expression or annoyed expression (sadly like Emilia Clarke in this film too) and the focus on him just brings down the plot. I didn’t care about his character because he didn’t feel real. He felt like a plot device and not like an actual human being.

Sarah Connor – Emilia Clarke like Jai Courtney is terrible in this. She is flustered most of the time and she feels shoe horned in. We don’t see her arc to become a badass she just is that way because of Pops. She also doesn’t have much of an arc. She learns to love and not fear I guess but always loved Pops anyway so the arc is irrelevant and a poor attempt to hook her up with Reese for plot reasons.

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese Romance – These two have no chemistry. Any times where there was supposed to be sexual tension felt contrived and tacked on and it felt like Emilia and Jai were just going through the motions.

Plot Holes – Who sent Pops back? How was the T-1000 around in 1984? How was  T-1000 sent back to kill Sarah Connor as a child? Are Time Machines around everywhere in the future? Are the Terminators from other Timelines? The plot is a mess if you think too hard on it, so major con.

Too Many Time Machines – See the plot holes above. Even Pops is able to build a Time Machine….which runs counter to the fact that in “Terminator 2” they were designed to only kill and couldn’t think on a deeper level. Now everyone has a Time Machine so story has no consequence. Everybody lives!

   This was a film that would have worked if we stayed in the future, or ended with Kyle Reese being sent back. From there the story would have been complete without having to explain the Old Terminator and hiding the fact that the writers don’t know who sent him back. We could have still had a good Terminator, the good Terminator could have protected John Connor after being reprogrammed and it having to kill John Connor after Skynet possess him, instead we get the entire timeline rebooted with Skynet pretty much destroyed and Reese and Pops alive. We get a story with no consequences with gaping plot holes, though I won’t deny the ride is enjoyable and Jason Clarke and Arnold are top of their game in their roles.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Would have been the best if we had just stuck to the future and consequences of the war on Skynet and filling in the blanks for “Terminator” and “T2,” without creating more plot holes in the Timeline (and creating more Timelines).