Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 8 – “The Magicks of Megas-Tu” – A Good Idea Lost in Poor Symbolism

Star Trek the Animated Series Lucien Magic

   After my laptop getting it’s battery replaced it is nice being able to write reviews again! I have a few reviews to catch up on but here is the latest of “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”

    “The Magics of Megas-Tu” really show how the original series wasn’t so good at metaphor and showing but not telling. In this the basic premise is that the witch trials, specifically those in Salem were bad and that we’ve grown beyond them. If that wasns’t obvious you haven’t been paying attention and the fact that witches are still scene as a threat and with that superstition leading to dangerous actions…there is that too, which the episode misses. I enjoyed the animation in this (which was surprising) but the story doesn’t hold and I’ll go into more detail on why.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Lary Brody.

     The story involves the Enterprise going into the center of creation and running into the Megans, who put humanity on trial for their treatment of witches and it is up to Spock and Kirk to save the day.

The Pros: Spock – Spock is a wizard in this and realizes that since what you believe is real you can cast spells in this reality. Seeing him act as a wizard and defending humanity being an outsider from it is really powerful.

The Animation – The presentation of magic is really cool in this and has chaos and beauty intermixed to create some wonderful scenes when they are passing through the core of the Universe.

The Cons: The Message – Persecution of “others” is bad. This is true but it could have been executed so much better. For one better to use Medieval Times or the Inquisition to express persecution of pagans and magic or even going modern day with some more fundamentalist theist sects or certain tribes in different regions…going Salem is so vague and shows lazyness.

Lucien – This guy is arrogant and I never believed his kindness. There was so much they could have done with this character who was meant to be Lucifer and Loki in mythology. Instead we got none of the complexity and only a god wanting to have a good time. He should have been another deity that fit

The Crew – The crew is just kind of there, even Kirk who exists wholly to send a message that humanity has grown beyond persecution of witches. It was entertaining but a character becoming a message only weakens the story.

  This was a below average episode that I’d only recommend for the animation experience. No reason to see it beyond that. Spock is as usual an awesome character but Kirk in this feels like a plot device and the crew doesn’t do anything productive.

Final Score: 4 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 19 – “Massacre” – Lost Ventress and Grievous Finally Acts Like a Threat

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     This was a great Grievous, Talzin, Dooku and Ventress episode as we see them go through extreme trials and out of it become more than they were before. This was a pretty dark episode as well as we see the slaughter of the Witches (reason the episode is titled “Massacre”) and once more have Ventress on the run. It was pulled off really well.

    “Massacre” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Katie Lucas.

   The story is that of Dooku’s revenge as he attacks Dathomir when he learns that Ventress is there and has become a member of the Nightsisters. As he orders Grievous to attack Mother Talzin attacks him with magic and a battle of wills commences between the two sides.

The Pros: The Undead Army – Mother Talzin summons an undead army that fights the droids and does a lot of damage until tanks and Grievous enter the battlefield and they go to kill the oldest of the Nightsisters who summoned the army in the first place.

General Grievous – He is actually a threat in this episode! We see him kill multiple Nightsisters, shake of zombies and put up a good fight against Ventress. Why couldn’t we have seen this more? He always gets his but kicked by Jedi Masters and he lost to Gungans one of the last times we saw him in action. This is the Grievous we needed from the beginning.

Count Dooku – Dooku does a good job at getting revenge, though he does not succeed in getting Ventress. We see how powerful he is at resisting pain though as a doll of his body is used by Talzin to destroy him and how even with all of that he still has enough willpower to live and to tell Grievous how to find Talzin. The guy deserves being the leader of the Separatists for sure.

Mother Talzin – Talzin shows that she is up there with Palpatine for truly powerful force wielders as she loses most of her clan but survives, turning into the green mist. What she has in mind for others remains to be seen but she helps Ventress heal and find a life beyond the world of the Nightsisters and what was lost.

Ventress – Ventress is the focus of this episode as we see her have community again to lose it as Dooku once more tries to take everything from her. In the end she survives with her life and not much else. It’s a heartbreaking scene as we see just how human Ventress is and how much losing her Sisters meant to her. This was her story.

   This was a great episode that had fantastic action, good character development, stakes and Ventress change in the process. The episode that follows up on this arc is really good too as we get to explore Ventress and her new relationships after she has lost it all.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Seventh Son (2014): Bland Leads and Would Have Worked Better as a Mini-Series or Videogame

Seventh Son

    “Seventh Son” was okay. For what it is worth it did get me interested on the book it is based on and the side characters are far more interesting and compelling than the leads (Jeff Bridges, Kit Harrington and Julianne Moore) are characters so there is that, but so much of the world feels unfully fleshed out and the story does feel rushed, like it was trying to take advantage of the fantasy in cinema interest going on right now. I’ll get into more of that in the assessment though. This is a decent rental but the limitations of film don’t serve this film justice and the presentation would have worked better as a really good videogame.

    The film was directed by Sergei Bodrov, written by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight and produced by Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull and Lionel Wigram, and based off the story The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney.

    The story involves Gregory (Jeff Bridges) searching for the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son since they are gifted at fighting Witches and the Queen of Witches Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escaped and killed his last apprentice Bradley (Kit Harrington). This leads him to Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) who is the last Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and also has magic in his blood as his mother is a Witch. He must train Tom before the Blood Moon when Mother Malkin will be at full power and impossible to stop.

The Pros: The World – The world is interesting as there are Witches who are shapeshifters and aren’t all bad as well as their being many other creatures and beasts like Bogarts, Wights, etc. Some of whom aren’t bad. This isn’t fully explored though as so much of the plot is focused on Tom and his romance that the plot didn’t need.

Bradley – Kit Harrington does a great job and would have been great in the role of Tom as his character has a lot of personality and is the happy go lucky one to the bitterness of Bridges’s Gregory. He sadly dies pretty early on to Mother Malkin in his Spook Apprenticeship to Gregory.

Gregory – Jeff Bridges is wonderful and I like how you get why he is bitter as Malkin was his lover before he got married and after she killed his family and his apprentices he carries nothing but hate and anger. He makes a great character though and Bridges makes him sympathetic. His relationship with Bradley and Malkin would have made this a great story, but sadly we get boring leads instead.

Mother Malkin – Julianne Moore hams this role up and does a great job of reveling in being evil for the sake of power. She is a good threat and far more interesting than those who follow her. He backstory being Gregory’s lover gives her depth too and motivation for what she does, she wants to get back for being trapped and wronged.

The Cons: Story Execution – The story execution is bad, largely due to the focus on our uninteresting leads of Tom and Alice who are blank slates and contrived love. The actors and script can’t carry those characters and it brings down the dynamic between Malkin and Gregory.

The Lieutenants – We don’t know anything about them though they have cool designs, from an army of stone, a shape-shifter and a multi-armed killer though we never get their motivations and they would have been much funner in a videogame, not a film.

The Other Witches – The other witches are plot devices. Alice and Tom’s mothers dies to show that not all witches are bad and to motivate the characters to change. They don’t ever feel like characters, they are there to drive plot and that is it.

Alice – She is the spy for Malkin but changes sides because she loves Tom. She has no motivation outside of love for Tom which was contrived since all she had was his saving her life. The actress is also really bland.

Tom Ward – Ben Barnes was horrible in this role. He wore one expression the entire time and he was written as a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. He’s half witch and a Seventh Son so he can do anything and has all the magic powers! This felt super contrived and plot armor kept him alive when he should have died on a few occasions. Super weak writing and terrible acting.

 This is a movie that would be fun to watch and mock with friends or if you want something that you don’t have to think deeply about. It’s a throwaway film and not my kind of movie though I do want to read the book now, so there is that. It isn’t good though, it’s okay at best and again, it’s a film that would be most enjoyable mocking with friends and having in the background.

Final Score: 6 / 10

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Upcoming Reviews

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     After I completed reviewing “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing,” was asking what anime I should review next to my friends on my facebook. The most consistent request as “Madoka Magica,” so that is what I’ll be reviewing next.

    First, I’ll say the premise of the anime is intriguing and the art looks really good. The premise that a bunch of middle school girls decide to become magical, but it comes at a price as they must battle enemies like witches, which will shape and change them in ways they cannot expect.

      “Modoka Magica” was produced by Shaft and Aniplex, directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, written by Gen Urobuchi and the characters were designed by Ume Aoki. This is one anime that did not start out as a manga but instead inspired a manga to be written and is the first and most modern anime I’ll have reviewed thus far, as it aired through 2011.

     Here goes the next reviewing adventure. After I’m finished I’ll do my summary of my overall thoughts on the series and rate it as a whole. Soon begin the review of “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.”

The Green Mile (1999): How One Man Can Change Things

The Green Mile

“The Green Mile” was a very long, but great film. It is another film based off a book that I now plan on reading, given that the books tend to give us more details of characters and events. For this reason, the length was in favor of “The Green Mile” even if I found it a bit much near the end. I’ll get into the why in the assessment.

“The Green Mile” is adapted from the book by the same name written by Stephen King and was directed by Frank Darabont, who was also one of the producers and wrote the screenplay. The other producer was David Valdes.

The story is the tale of Paul Edgecomb (Dabbs Grear as older recounting events, Tom Hanks as the man living the events) who recounts why he was affected so powerfully by an old musical on the television. It is here we learn that he was a prison officer in charge of death row inmates and the supernatural events with a man named John Coffey who is accused of the rape and murder of two girls. The time period is that of the great depression. From here the truth of what happened is revealed as well as the nature of John Coffey and later Paul Edgecomb as the story progresses.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Setting – The setting in the senior home where he walks up to an old abandoned shack in the hills and in the past when he’s in the prison, as well as setting it during the Great Depression add a sense of feeling trapped that pervades the film and characters. Which works given the themes and stories that get explored.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is glorious. From old Paul talking while it is raining, to all the times the prison goes dark and the mist surrounding the hills. So many scenes are beautiful shots worthy of being framed or pictures. David Tattersall was clearly the right guy.

The Characters – There really aren’t any 2-Dimensional characters, unless said character are psychopaths. For this reason it was great spending so much time with them all since everyone gave great performances.

Brutus Howell – David Morse plays the guard who is the teddy bear of the group. He enjoys joking with the inmates on death row and it takes Paul to pull him out of it sometimes. His heart is in the right place and when John does the miracle and heals Paul, as well as the Resurrection of the mouse Mr. Jingles. He was my favorite of the minor characters without a doubt, since he was one of the few who actually held Percy Wetmore (who had the political connections) for his wrongdoings in the prison.

Jan Edgecomb – Is Paul’s wife and is the other who believes the miracles of John Coffey when Paul tells her of them. She also makes John some cornbread that he shares with Mr. Jingles and Mr. Jingles guardian who is also a prisoner, Eduard “Del” Delacroix. Her role is smaller but Bonnie Hunt does a great job.

Eduard “Del” Delacroix – Michael Jeter plays my other favorite minor character, as he is a slightly mad inmate who adopts Mr. Jingles, who is a highly intelligent mouse. He is one of the kinder inmates and genuinely feels guilt at the end for the crimes we do not hear about. For this reason he’s a character with a lot of depth as we see him make friends with the guards and Mr. Jingles and his torture (in the beginning and when he is put on the electric chair) by Percy. His death is brutal as the sponge is not put on his head so he is cooked before he dies. His death would be the saddest if not for what comes later.

Dean Stanton – Barry Pepper was perfect for this role and it was good to see him in a film that wasn’t “Battlefield Earth.” He is one of the youngest of the guards and we see him learning the ropes and also building a relationship with John and Del too. He weeps at John’s death and we see how much John has changed him through his kindness and miracles.

Warden Moores – The Warden is played by James Cromwell, and he’s Cromwell the guy is great in everything he’s in. In this he plays a guy who gives in to Percy because he’s afraid of the State coming down on his Prison. He’s also fearful because his wife is dying and has Brain Cancer. It takes him trusting Paul and John at the end for John to take away the the infection and heal her. You can tell that he was changed by it and probably has second thoughts about the crime Coffey is accused.

John Coffey – Michael Clarke Duncan won best supporting actor for a reason. His character is an immortal who has strong emotional intelligence but his intellect isn’t all that great and he sees things simple as far as wanting to take away another’s pain or destroy someone for causing pain. He is on death row for the murder and rape of two girls which was done by another character (Wild Bill) who he kills in the end. He goes to death after giving some of his power to Mr. Jingles and Paul by accident since he was doing so in both cases to help Paul understand why he was innocent and why Bill needed to die and because of the terror Mr. Jingles felt as Del was being killed. His character was complex and the closest to good in the film, which is why Paul feels guilt at not saving his life.

Paul Edgecomb – In the flashbacks Tom Hanks was perfect in this role. He plays a mentor figure to both the inmates and the guards and shows himself to be a good leader with a cool head time and time again, even when Percy and Bill pull crap that causes pain to others. He is the one who has a urinary infection for the first part but is healed by John which leads to him investigating and finding racism was a big part of why John was found guilty, even though his character showed he would not commit the crime. This haunts him later when John gives him immortality and we see the pain and loss of waiting to die and his immortality scene as punishment through the eyes of Dabbs Greer.

The Message – For me the message was at the core, that one person can change things. In that it was John Coffey through his miracles, which were really a reflection of his kindness. He made everyone around him better or safe. Which Paul did after when he left the prison to help at risk youth, so they wouldn’t end up in prison.  John’s actions shaped everyone around him and left a lasting impression on the immortal Paul who than carried it to the end of his days.

Okay: Wild Bill and Percy – These two characters were mostly selfish dicks and uninteresting ones because they had no motivation beyond wanting to cause pain. It was never about power, they were just bullies and that didn’t lend to the story beyond them being obstacles for Paul and later John to finally overcome. Each of them are monsters in their own ways as Percy picks on the week and tortures them and Wild Bill rapes and murders people. These characters got justice in the end though with Wild Bill killed by Percy and Percy in a mental institute.

Soundtrack – Didn’t really leave an impression the way the cinematography did. Wasn’t bad, just wasn’t memorable.

The Cons: The Length – In the end this was a con because it could have made events more concise. We get all the important information like we do in “Return of the King” but it can’t help but feel like it’s dragging as we get quite a few endings back to back. This is one of the few things that hurts the film.

This is a film I’d highly recommend. It’s a favorite film though my favorite film adapted from a Stephen King novel would still be “The Shawshank Redemption.” This one goes into a lot of different themes and most the characters are quite rich in how they are acted and what the script gives them. If you have patience, it is worth sitting through, because the end payoff is worth it.

Final Score: 9 / 10. A solidly great film.

Gargoyles – Season 1, Episode 13 – “Reawakening” – The Purpose of a Gargoyle

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We end Season 1 of Gargoyles with the 13th and Final Episode of the season, “Reawakening.” This is a great episode for many reasons, as it brings together the loose threads from a few of the stories, gives a hint of things to come and establishes a higher purpose and point. Suffice to say it is amazing and a favorite. Also, Michael Dorn (Worf from “Star Trek”) guest stars in this as Coldstone.

“Reawakening” was written by Brynne Chandler Reaves and directed by Saburo Hashimoto and Kazuo Terada.

The story is that Demona uses magic and Xanatos uses technology to ressurect Coldstone into a cyborg gargoyle body. From here they use him as Demona blames Goliath for the extinction of the Wyvern Clan from the vikings. Ashamed of his form and feeling hatred Coldstone joins with them as they target Goliath and the Manhattan Clan in a final showdown. From here the story unfolds.

Gargoyles Reawakening

Here is the assessment of the Season 1 Finale:

The Pros: Coldstone – Michael Dorn is an amazing actor and voice actor and he has the chance to play a complex gargoyle who was once Goliath’s Rookery Brother. You see how conflicted he is after Demona gives him the half-truth of the Vikings killing of him being Goliath’s doing and we see him choose to live rather than survive when he finds that all Demona is offering him is survival, which is no way for a gargoyle to be. We understand his distrust of humans too as the Sorcerer runs in fear of them from the castle tower in the flashback.

Demona – We see that hatred once again dominates her feelings as she shoots to kill at all times, even when Xanatos tells her he wants the Gargoyles alive. We also see her influence as she easily makes Coldstone their pawn when the episode begins. She would have killed more people too if Xanatos hadn’t used the rocket pack in the Red Steel Clan suit to run off with her after the battle. She shoots Coldstone and feels nothing, showing just how far gone she’s become.

Brooklyn – We see his hatred for Demona here for being used as a incapacitates her at the beginning of the fight, but still sees the bigger picture as he and Lexington save Broadway from the Steel Clan.

Lexington – Manages to take out two Steel Clan members through his wits and teams up to save Broadway from Xanatos. He is finding his confidence and how to use his small size to his advantage.

Elisa Maza – Grabs Hudson and Bronx and turns the tied against Demona and Xanatos, forcing them to run away. She also helps Goliath and the Gargoyles find their purpose once more as defenders once more.

Xanatos – Xanatos changes in this episode as he sees that he is working with someone he shouldn’t be as she doesn’t listen and is only after retribution where he is thinking long term. It’s powerful when he surrenders and reveals himself beneath the Red Steel Clan helmet as the Gargoyles didn’t know he’d been fighting with his robots and when he makes the escape rather than standing and fighting you see in his eyes him rethinking the whole of the situation. He also has a comedic laughing moment where he says “It’s alive! It’s alive!” When they ressurect Coldstone, which was something he always wanted to say.

Goliath – Goliath expresses the purpose for the Gargoyles as he is the one who reminds Coldstone of his, that there are things more important than survival or only caring for your own. He learns from from Elisa Maza and he and the Gargoyles swear to protect Manhattan, which in a way is when they officially become the Manhattan Clan. Manhattan is now their castle. It is powerful and we see how much Goliath has grown versus the lack of growth from Demona. Also a cute romantic moment at the end when he tells Elisa Maza. “All I need is a Detective.”

The Message – Look beyond yourself and look out for other people, do not hate those who are different but strive always for good. Protect. This the gargoyle way and is expressed fully in this episode.

Okay: Broadway and Hudson – They are there in the final battle, but Broadway needs to be saved and Hudson tells us what we already learned from Detective Maza. They aren’t bad, just redundant as all needed rescuing at one time or another and Detective Maza already gave us the message much better than Hudson.

This is an amazing episode, the only thing that is left in the air is if Coldstone is now undead so cannot die, what do Xanatos and Demona plan to do now? Where is Macbeth? These questions leave so much open for Season 2, which I remember Season 2 exploring quite well. Will see first hand when I get to it, for now we’re taking a break from “Gargoyles” and ending on a high note, as this season did. What compelling villains and characters and what great stories and messages…These are the things that made this show memorable beyond the premise, art and voice actors. This is a season I plan to watch again, as these stories are timeless. Timeless, as Gargoyles made of stone.

Final Score for the Finale: 10 / 10. I just wish it had been longer and been a two-parter to give us more time with Coldstone and more development for Broadway and Hudson.

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