“Castlevania” Season 3 – An Exploration of Hope Lost

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  Season 3 of “Castlevania” is really good filler. There are a lot of pieces moving and characters are developed, but there isn’t the core driving action that was last season. I still highly recommend checking it out though if you are a fan of the show. There are 10 episodes this season and none of them are wasted. Warren Ellis has truly crafted an amazing story and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

This season was directed by Sam and Adam Deats and written by Warren Ellis.

The story follows Sypha and Trevor uncovering the mystery behind a town, two twins befriending Alucard in his isolation, Carmilla’s plotting of conquest and Isaac as he creates an army in his quest to get revenge against those who betrayed Dracula.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Saint Germain – Saint Germain is a fantastic character. He is Lindenfeld seeking a portal in order to get back to his wife. He find allies in Sypha and Trevor and it is wonderful seeing them interact as he sees himself as above everyone but them. In a depressing season he is such a fun character who brings levity and humor to all that happens this season. He also helps save the day by closing the Portal to Hell when the Priory in Lindenfeld is trying to summon Dracula back from Hell.

The Sisters – Carmilla and her 3 sisters make up a Vampire coven in Styria who is planning conquest. In order to conquer they need troops though and this involves her sister Lenore seducing and tricking Hector into being their slave. I thought it was handled well as she showed a soft power approach and diplomacy compared to how blunt most of her other sisters are. Striga is the warrior who loves battle, Morana is the strategist and Carmilla is the spark and planner. They have a fascinating dynamic and I can’t wait to see Isaac, Sypha and Trevor take them on.

Sypha and Trevor – Sypha and Trevor are such a cute couple. In this we get to see how much they enjoy killing monsters and protecting people. Sypha especially revels in combat. They play off each other really well and it is the first time we really see a more happy Trevor…until the end. At the end they discover the Judge of the town they couldn’t save was a serial killer the entire time. Once happy fighting evil they discover the evil in humanity again and they have each other, but that is it. By the end of this season, they feel alone. They really should go back to Alucard.

Isaac – Isaac has a fascinating arc this season. He is driven by Dracula’s goal to exterminate humanity, though he still is willing to give people a chance. We see him spare those who show kindness and his conversations with a merchant, a captain and another Forgemaster make him realize that he should shape his own destiny. It is powerfully done and I can’t wait for him to take on Carmilla and her sisters.

Alucard – Alucard is alone and going mad until two hunters, Sumi and Taka seek him for training. He believes them at first until they try to kill him. This loneliness and betrayal breaks him and he puts their corpses outside the Dracula’s Castle as a warning, beginning to embrace the practices of his father, who also had lost all hope humans. He really needs Sypha and Trevor to bring him back to balance.

Hopeless Humanity – Isaac is attacked by multiple groups who are destroyed, Sypha and Trevor discover the evil in the town they couldn’t save and Sumi and Taka show that even those who appear good can do evil. This was the theme this season and is meant to explore why Dracula was the way he was. It is really well done and a proper way for filler to be handled.

The Cons:

The Twins – Sumi and Taka were slaves of Cho’s court. Cho was one of Dracula’s generals from Japan and we see how in control she was over the populace, even letting hunters in for fun. From this I can see why they don’t trust vampires but Alucard killed Dracula. Them trying to kill Alucard wasn’t fleshed out enough, they needed more development for the turn the story took.

Feels Like Filler – In the end what does bring it down is that it does feel like filler. It is good filler, but knowing a show could be canceled at anytime I tend to see filler as a waste. This was a good use of filler but the problem of it still happens. This was really good but if the show ended here it wouldn’t be a good end to “Castlevania.”

I really enjoyed this season. It is depressing as hell but the character development is well handled. I also love how big this world is. This season was largely setup for the big events that will no doubt play out and I think it handled it well. The only con was really the twins as I get why they existed (to make Alucard more like his father and lose hope in humanity) but their motivations needed much more development. I hope Alucard catches a break soon, he’s one of my favorite characters on the show and it sucks seeing him go through all this. Can’t wait to see how the upcoming wars go.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 Boosted slightly by the good character work.

“The Witcher” Season 1 – A Promising Start to This Fascinating Universe

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      “The Witcher” is a series that shows so much promise. This is a world where I’ve played some of each of the videogames (1-3) as well as read some of one of the books (“Blood of Elves”). This is a universe that I find fascinating while it is only the show that I’ve full completed a story. This is the perspective I’m coming from outside of reading the wikis. I have an interest in this universe, but am more of a passive fan. So knowing this, what did I think of it? I think this is a show that shows a lot of promise, and I want to see more. I’ll get into more of what works and doesn’t below.

This is a show produced by Netflix and created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich based on the books by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.

The story follows the Witcher Geralt of Rivea (Henry Cavill) as he hunts monsters and wrestles with his destiny as the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) forges her own path and the Princess Siri of Cintra (Freya Allan) discovers there is more to her past than she realizes.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The World of “The Witcher” is amazing. It is one reason I play all 3 games and can’t wait to see where the stories go. This is a world full of politics, magic, drama and monsters where often times there isn’t a best choice. All these aspects (with the exception of politics which I wish had been explored better) are handled well in the show. I can’t wait to see how Netflix explores this world further.

The Monsters – We see dragons, undead and countless other beasts pulled from Eastern European mythology. The designs are fantastic and this show uses a lot of practical make-up rather than leaning too heavily on CGI and it brings the world to life. The monsters also exist among the humans as it is often the humans who are cursing others and changing them into beasts and who are monsters in their actions.

Yennefer – Yennefer has my favorite arc in the show. She goes from an abused girl who has a humpback and deformity from her elven blood and comes into her own as a powerful sorcerer. She breaks from the Tower and makes her own path before eventually returning to defend the rest of the realm with her mentor from the Nilfgaard invasion. Her relationship with Geralt is beautiful as they are the only ones who are open with each other but at the same time are both still so full of secrets each moment of joy comes with one of pain. I can’t wait to see where her story goes. Anya Cholotra did a great job.

Jaskier – Jaskier is the heart of the story in many ways. He’s an egotistical bard who is out for fame but also cares. He is one of the few friend’s Geralt has in the world and has countless adventures with him over the course of the season. I can’t wait to see more of him in season 2. He’s hilarious and also you can’t help but feel for him too given how open he is compared to the guarded personality that is Geralt.

Geralt – Henry Cavill works in this role. I was surprised how much I ended up liking him. You can tell he’s a fan of this universe and he does a great job of bringing the pain and nobility that drives Geralt in his actions. I hope we learn more about the Witchers as so far Geralt is the only one we’ve seen in the show and I have hopes for how they handle Ciri’s arc as the father and daugther relationship that Geralt and Ciri have is one of the strongest parts of the game.

The Cons:

The Ciri Story So Far – Ciri escapes from Nilfgaard after they destroy her kingdom by using her magic (she discovers she has it when she screams). What this magic means and what drives her beyond survival is never really discovered though, and the supporting characters she meets are no “Hound” from “Game of Thrones” even though her plot is very Arya like as she ends up kidnapped or a different group’s hands after she is on the run. After this she non-nonsensically asks Geralt who Yennefer is, and that is where her story ends. Hopefully season 2 will develop her as a character.

Nilfgaard – The Nilfgaard Empire’s expansion is the main threat in the present day story surrounding Ciri. One of the leaders is trying to capture Ciri and destroys her Kingdom and family. We never get what drives their expansionism though, or even what they believe. They are soldiers in black armor and never become more nuanced than that. They are the Empire when in game they are much more complicated.

Destiny – Destiny is what characters use to explain everything. It is used much as “The Force” in “Star Wars” but is even more flimisly handled. We don’t get the logic behind destiny beyond “The Law of Surprise” which is where you can claim something of someone else’s as a reward after a certain time (though it could be anything from a shovel to a child). Why this law exists is never explained either even though it is the only real explanation we see of how destiny works. I hope next season solves this problem.

This is a series that shows so much promise. There are still problems, Ciri’s story was uninspired and she is pretty much kidnapped from place to place while having no real agency and the threat of Nilfgaard hasn’t been defined. We know they are religious fanatics but know next to nothing about how that fanaticism rose and what drives them. This is a shame as they are much more complex in what I’ve played in “Witcher 3.” I want more of that and Ciri to be a character as compelling as Geralt and Yennefer. She isn’t there yet, but there is still hope to have all parts of this series stand strong.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10 Boosted by the Geralt and Yennefer stories and the actors in those roles.

“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” Season 1 – The Power of Deep Lore and Great Characters

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   “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” is the best show I’ve seen on Netflix. I liked the original “Dark Crystal” but thought it was underdeveloped as a whole but had so many awesome ideas. This show develops all those ideas. We see how rich this world is and how complicated the characters are. The world of “Dark Crystal” is fantasy meets sci. fi. You have elven fairy Gelflings, Gnomelike Podlings and the monstrous villainous Skeksis. Jim Henson truly had an amazing imagination. This show takes all of that and develops the characters further. This show is also done all with puppetry, just like the original film and they are truly masterful.

The series was produced by Netflix with the Jim Henson company.

The story follows the Rian (Taron Egerton) as he is on the run after witnessing the Lord’s of Thra, the Skeksis kill and take the “essence” of his friend. At the same time Deet (Nathalie Emmanuel) arrives from the caves seeking to end “The darkening” as the princess Brea (Anya Taylor-Joy) begins questioning Skeksis rule, prompted by a symbol from the past.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Puppetry – The puppetry is absolutely stunning. The level of detail on the Skeksis scarred or sickened faces, the kind faces and wings of the gelflings and the large eyes and large mouths of the Gelflings. All of them feel real and their expressions and emotions are brought to life largely due to how well these puppets were made. They all have a distinct walk in how they are used too and the talking feels completely natural. The Jim Henson Company has truly done it again.

The World of Thra – There are the Podlings, the Skeksis, the Mystics and the Gelflings. The Gelflings have the most variety and their service to the Dark Crystal and in turn the Skeksis adds for some compelling politics. This is a world that has consequences and the show starts in the middle of it all.

The Characters – There are so many great characters in this film. I chose the ones who go through the most development to delve into more deeply but shout to to the Emperor voiced by Jason Isaacs who is threatening as hell and driven to control by any means necessary, even if it destroys him and Thra. The General who revels in combat and enforcing the Emperor’s will voiced by Benedict Wong. Lena Heady as Maudra Fara leader of the Stonewood Clan who guides the development of others and nearly leads the Gelflings. The cast and characters are simply amazing.

Mother Aughra – Aughra is the seer who returns from the stars to find the Skeksis have become dictators over Thra and have corrupted the Crystal, making it dark. Her arc is connecting with the planet Thra once more and finding her purpose. In this she connects to the Gelfling heroes and sacrifices her life to save them, in turn being brought back when her friend the Archer sacrifices himself to defeat the Skeksis Hunter. She uses madness as her shield, as it makes it so the Skeksis aren’t threatened by her, which allows her to get close and help in the fight against them.

Rian – Rian is the main hero of the piece and reminds me a lot of Link in a “Legend of Zelda” game. It is his friend being killed that sparks his story and he is the one spreading word of the Skeksis being evil. In the end his revolution is successful as the Gelfling Clans unite under his banner and he finds the sword that is prophesied to defeat the Skeksis.

Brea – Brea is  one of the three princesses of the Vapra Clan. The Vapra are the High Elves and rule their All-Maudra rules the other Clans. Her sister Tavra who she is close too and Seladon the sister who follows the status quo and supports Skeksis rule. She is the youngest of the sisters and is the one pushing for change. Brea questions Skeksis rule and it is her discoveries that bring her mother and eventually Tavra and Seladon to go against Skeksis rule. At one point the Skeksis kill her mother and she has an arc going through that grief and connecting with the other Gelflings. Brea is the one who finds the Shard of Division after the Sword is destroyed and sees that it is the best hope the Gelfings have of defeating Skeksis rule.

Chamberlain – Simon Pegg does a masterful job bringing Chamberlain to life. In this we see his machinations as he seeks control over the other Skeksis and being second-in-command to the Emperor. He largely succeeds until Rian’s revolution leads to the General becoming the Emperor’s right hand. From here we see Chamberlain’s ideas payoff. He comes up with having soldiers who are undead (which the Scientist builds with the creation of the Garthim) and he was smart that killing all Gelflings means they run out of essence. This long term thinking goes away when the resistance comes to fruition and he is shamed before his fellow Skeksis. In the end he is back to where he was before as after Rian defeats the General he kills the General and once more is the most “trusted” of the Emperor as the first Garthim is introduced. He is such a great villain and I can’t wait to see him explored in future seasons.

Hup – Hup is a Podling who seeks to be a Paladin. He is corageous and best friends with Deet. He is so loyal and you see it hurt him when Rian and Deet grow closer. I don’t think he will survive the series, but I hope if he does die it is protecting his friends. He is the character who sees the bigger picture. He reacts to the Gelflings and how they oppress his people and one another. Deet is treated badly by the Vapra and Stonewood Clans simply because she is Grottan and her clan is from the caves. Hup is the only one who stands up against it, which we won’t see until Rian later.

Deet – Nathalie Emmanuel’s Deet is my favorite character on the show. She is from the cave dwelling Grotton clan. She is an animal caretaker and she is easily the most compassionate character in the entire show. It is this compassion that draws Hup to her when he rescues her from a creature corrupted by the darkening. She is the most in tune with the world around her and the best bet of the Gelflings not making the mistakes of the Skeksis again. She takes so much persecution from the Vapra and Stonewood Clans but never stops fighting against the darkening and protecting all Gelflings.

The Ending – The ending feels very complete. The darkness is used against the united Gelflings and Deet absorbs becoming an avatar of it. Rian and Aughra are the only ones who seem aware of it and after she saves the Gelflings she is walking into the forest as the darkening consumes life around her. At the same time the Skeksis’s new creation has been completed by the Scientist, signalling that even though they last the battle against the Gelflings, the Skeksis have not lost the war.

The Cons:

The Oppression of Podlings – The one issue I had with the show was the state of the Podlings. Gelfling oppression is recognized and it is what leads to the resistance against Skeksis power and control. The Podlings are oppressed by the Gelflings, Aughra and the Skeksis and the only one who comments on it is Hup. Hup is the one resisting Gelfling and Skeksis oppression but the show never fully recognizes it. I hope this idea is explored fully next season, it is the only con in the entire show.

Besides “Bojack Horseman” and the best of the “Defenderseverse,” this is the best of Netflix shows. If you like strange, puppets or dark fantasy please check this show out. I thought the original film was good, but this enriches it so much more. I cannot recommend this film enough. I hope that next season the injustices against the Podlings will be addressed. This is such a powerful show and I hope we see more shows like this. Honestly, it is worth it for the puppetry alone, but this time you will also be watching the greatest dark fantasy show.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Top 5 Netflix “Defendersverse” Seasons

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    The Netflix Marvel “Defendersverse” is an experiment I wish had gone on. Outside of “Umbrella Academy” this is the only quality superhero content on Netflix and here they gave us so many amazing characters and storylines. I don’t know if Disney will take those same risks and given Disney’s growing corporate monopoly I’m not all that inclined to support Disney Plus. This was a series that I overall enjoyed. “The Defenders” season 1 was even great in how bad it was, but because it was bad it did not make this list. Every season on here is a season I would come back to re-watch or have gone back to re-watch. Also, I feel Disney taking these characters back probably won’t work. I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe but we have not seen them take the kinds of R rated risks this series or really “Deadpool” took. So hopeful but doubtful we’ll see these characters again as great as they were before, if ever again.

Slight spoiler warnings here. If you want to watch “The Defenders,” “The Punisher,” “Daredevil,” Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” and haven’t yet this review isn’t for you. I have to talk about the content on why I enjoyed these shows or didn’t enjoy them, and that involves spoilers so…

SPOILER WARNING for all the shows I just listed.

 

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5th – “Daredevil” Season 2

Finding 5th place on this list was somewhat difficult. I felt “Iron Fist” Season 2 solved many problems I had with Season 1 and “The Punisher” Season 1 is great when it doesn’t get distracted.  What ended up being the deciding factor for me were the side stories. Frank Castle is introduced in this season and his face-off against Daredevil is perfection. It is a fight I’d love to see Batman have more against a friend or ally who crosses his line. This season did that. We also see how Matt’s obsession wad destroying his relationships. From Claire to Foggy, Matt when he was all in as the weapon Stick had built him to be, he was screwed. This could have been more if “The Hand” was written as a more compelling villain but them not being more compelling is a reason this isn’t higher on the list and had to be debated on to get here. The Karen and Castle story is far superior to the Matt and Elektra story and that is where the side stories being stronger made me appreciate this season. Frank Castle’s arc in this season is better than either seasons of “The Punisher.” This is a season worth a re-watch for the B plots.

 

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4th – “Jessica Jones” Season 1

This is a season that didn’t make the best use of Killgrave as a villain for the climax of the story. Throughout the story he is a great threat, but when he has the power to control anyone who here’s him with his voice we get nothing interesting. I blame lack of creativity for this. What works though is Jessica Jones and her relationship. Her relationship with her adoptive mother and adopted sister are where she first stands up for another due to her adoptive mom abusing her and Trish. This leads her doubting herself later on due to her isolation from them and Kilgrave’s using of her and all those around her she cares for. Krysten Ritter is absolutely amazing as we see her work through how she was abused and gaslighted by Kilgrave. From here her arc is the slow building of community and fighting to stop Kilgrave. Most episodes are good to great, it is just the climax and Killgrave’s powers being so underutilized in that climax that keep this season from being higher on the list. David Tennant as Kilgrave and Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones carry the show and the more time away from the show more the story grew on me. There is so much good here.

 

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3rd – “Luke Cage” Season 2

“Luke Cage” Season 1 had one of my favorite villains in Cottonmouth. He didn’t last but due to how villains and antagonists are used this time around, and Luke’s own ego growing lead to an exciting season that I loved. Mariah makes up for the amazing threat of her brother “Cottonmouth” not being around. “Shades” is a great villain beginning to question what he is doing and his loyalty and “Bushmaster” shows up and his war against Maria hurts Luke Cage’s protection of Harlem forcing him to change further and make some difficult decisions that only make him more compelling. Like Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, Luke Cage is someone who is someone who pushes others away. In this case it is different though because he feels invulnerable and that feeling never really leaves as he realizes he has to make tough decisions to keep Harlem safe. I loved that. He ends almost as an anti-hero and it works. He was a character who is good at the core but also human and has an ego that ruins his relationships. In the end he is all about the big picture and like most heroes in the “Defendersverse,” this makes him isolated. This season was great. The flaw on why it wasn’t higher is Mariah should have been used more and been longer lasting in power.

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2nd – “Jessica Jones” Season 3

“Jessica Jones” Season 3 builds on what worked about Season 1, but has a better conclusion. One of the only reasons this season is better than “Luke Cage” Season 2 is because this season has a level of hope the other prior ones don’t have. I get that Netflix is walking a line of dark R “Marvel Cinematic Universe” which I feel should still go on, Netflix has more than earned it. This season goes fully dark but the fact that it ends with hope and our heroes like Jessica and Malcom choosing the good gives me that perfect bittersweet. This season is where we see Jessica become the hero while dealing with Trish and her abuse like Matt Murdock’s leading to her becoming a weapon akin to Daredevil and The Punisher, except Trish does kill. What helps with this dilemma is them facing off against a serial killer named Sallinger. He like Jessica and Trish was also abused and used it to become a monster who targeted Inhumans believing them to be cheaters for having abilities. The season arc is powerful and I loved where everyone ends up. Luke Cage post his own Season 2 meets up with Jessica and reminds her of her choice and responsibility to stop Trish. It is great and I miss that as far as we know right now, we won’t see more of their relationship.

 

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1st – “Daredevil” Season 1

“Daredevil” Season 1 is still the height of the show. We get to introduced to amazing villains like Wesley, Madam Gao and the Kingpin. This is a show that is truly carried by the villains as they are on top for most of the film, which gives Matt Murdock so much he has to fight against and work for. This is a season with cost. Season 3’s Kingpin is never as threatening or effective as he is this season. This season is also where Matt is most human and we come to understand his obsession through his backstory and the murder of his father. It is powerful and Kingpin’s story mirrors it in the killing of his father to protect his mother. Both of them were shaped by those around them and came to have a warped view on what it means to protect what they believe to be theirs. This mirroring of one another and the war against Kingpin who has united the gangs is beautifully handled. I also love Claire and Matt’s relationship far more than the Karen and Matt relationship of later seasons. This was the season that kicked off the entire “Defendersverse” and still remains the best of them all.

I know “Disney+” might bring some of these stories and heroes and villains back. I’m just less likely to trust it. Unless they are the same writers who have clearly shown an ability to learn and also giving “Disney” some competition…I don’t want a monopoly. I want competition and so far I have seen nothing from “Disney” to show they will be putting out original films and shows the way Netflix is. Support competition and indie films and show please. This subset of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” being absorbed is not something that gives hope in the corporate game of control of “Marvel” or any other franchise.

“The Umbrella Academy” Season 1 – Great Character Arcs With More to Tell

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    “The Umbrella Academy” is easily one of my favorite shows. I read the original volume it is based on years ago and the show captures the zany characters and character relationships that made the book so memorable. Gabriel Bá and Gerard Way truly created a beautiful world and Netflix did an amazing job bringing it to the screen. The cast is fantastic and I can’t wait for season 2 to come out, given how season 1 ends.

The series was created by Jeremy Slater and Steve Blackman and as said above based on the comic series of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá published by Dark Horse Comics.

The story follows the members of the Umbrella Academy who were all born on the same day when 43 women around the world gave birth without any sign of being pregnant. The seven adopted by the billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves would become the Umbrella Academy. After years away his death brings them all back home and the apocalyptic plot unfolds from here.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – The cinematography feels like a comic book. Color is made to stand out and some scenes slow way down, such as when Cha-Cha and Hazel are high on Klaus’s drugs and destroying a lab. The film is beautiful all the way through and focuses on characters the way a panel would. Craig Wrobleski and Neville Kidd clearly have an eye for their craft.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography keeps that comic book feel while capturing so beautifully how all the characters are isolated and outsiders. Gerard Way’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” and Morcheeba’s “Blood Like Lemonade.” This is a soundtrack that goes between so many styles of music while keeping an undercurrent of rock to it. All our characters are healing and going through trauma and the soundtrack expresses it.

The World – The world of “The Umbrella Academy” is amazing. You have the Commission in the future making sure bad events go according to plan and who want to end the world. There are the members of the Umbrella Academy itself and also the ones hunting them being the duo Hazel and Cha-Cha who are enforces for the Commission the way Five once was. The characters are what make this world and I’m curious to see what the show does with them moving forward.

Hazel and Cha-Cha – These two are one of the best parts of the show. Hazel is played by Cameron Britton and is fed up with the work of being a killer. Cha-Cha is his closest friend and fully devoted to the Commission. Mary J. Blige is amazing as her. Over the course of the series we see that even when they are set against one another by Five or the Commission we see there is always more going on. Whether it is regret from Cha-Cha for attempting to kill Hazel and vise versa or her rage at Hazel for moving on with another person. I hope that there story isn’t done as I really like these two.

The Umbrella Academy – The Umbrella Academy is the super hero organization created by Sir Reginald Hargreeves from the 7 adopted children who were born during the event. Each of them has powers and are used by Reginald to take down villains. I’m going to give special time to Five and Klaus as they were the most interesting and fleshed out of the characters, but it is important to mention the other members of the family. I’ll also be including the guardians that Reginald created for them.

Grace, the robot created by Reginald is the mother of Academy while Pogo is the Reginald’s butler and together they hold the secrets of what was done to all of the members of the Academy and how Sir Reginald died. Over the course of the series they go from being the most trusted by the surviving members of the Academy to in the case of Pogo killed for hiding Vanya’s power from her. They are fascinating characters and I wanted to know so much more about them.

Of the Academy members who I won’t be giving a special paragraph to. First there is Ben, the one member who is dead and can summon a tentacle monster from his body. He is still around though as his spirit talks to Klaus. There is Diego (whose power is the ability to hit anything with his daggers) who is a wonderful Punisheresque vigilante who deals with his trauma through rage but comes around the caring for the team and seeing them as a family again. There are Luther (the leader of the team whose power is physical strength) and Allison (the only character with a family outside of the team and one who controls people through suggestion) that love each other romantically and come to terms with that and how they’ve changed as people. Allison is also Vanya’s biggest ally and the one who was used by their father to hurt her the most and repress Vanya’s powers. Vanya is the one who believes she doesn’t have powers through most of the series. It is only through a creepy stalker who is manipulating her that she discovers how great her power is and kills him. Her power is energy both psychic and otherwise that she can channel through music. After the Academy turns on her and traps her she goes full bad and we soon learn is the one who causes the apocalypse leading the Academy to make a choice and time jump with her away from the end of the world that she caused.

Five – Five is the member of the Academy who can jump through space and time. Because of this he ends up going missing when he jumps and ends up in the future. Here he lives a full life working for the Commission before returning back to the present time and in turn appearing as the young kid he was once before. He is great as he is an old man in a teenage body so he doesn’t want to be with people. His arc is his coming around to his family and his work against the Commission comes to a head as at one point he works for them again as he secretly tries to stop the apocalypse and in the end he is the one who saves them all after Vanya causes the end of the world as they jump to a time and place we haven’t seen yet. His arc is also dealing with the fact that he’s seen how it all ends so wonders if it is set in stone and can’t be prevented. He’s dealing with the possible inevitability of the end and it changes his outlook as he fights against it.

Klaus – Klaus is the best character on the show and Robert Sheehan does such a fantastic job as him. Klaus’s power is that he can speak to ghosts and the dead and because of this Ben is with him counseling him. Klaus before the events of the show has been through so much abuse from Sir Reginald that his only escape has been through drugs and alcohol (he would be locked in a room with the dead as a child and was never let out). Because of this he is detached from everyone and his arc is his sobering up to the point that he can speak to their father and learn about why they were brought together. At one point he serves in the Vietnam War and loves a fellow soldier after he uses Cha-Cha’s and Hazel’s briefcase to travel back in time. He resists torture from the two of them and even manages to turn Hazel more to the good when he calls upon all those Hazel and Cha-Cha have killed. His greatest moment of awesome is making Ben corporeal which saves the Academy from an attack by Cha-Cha and the commission as Vanya is bringing about the end.

Family and Sibling Relationships – People aren’t perfect. People are dysfunctional and all of us are going through different trials from past hurt. “The Umbrella Academy” explores these relationships through the characters. We see Diego and his rivalry with Luther. Allison and her reaching out to and protecting of Vanya. Five being cared for all by all the others and the reestablishment of relationship after how long he’s been gone. We also have Vanya, who dealt with being the one without powers by doing a tell all book and how they all have to confront the hurt they’ve caused to each other that their father had brought down upon all of them. The family dynamics are fascinating and I can’t wait to see how they are developed further.

The Cost of Trauma and Abuse – All of our characters are survivors of Sir Reginald’s abuse and we see what it has done to them. They are cut off from another, escaping into drugs and alcohol (Five and Klaus) and in turn they abuse one another. The cost of trauma is constant and ongoing and we see hints of healing near the end but only after the characters have had those moments of honesty with one another on all that they’ve been through. I’m curious to see how the show explores this further as I feel like our characters are really only starting to face it and the consequences it has had upon their lives.

The Cons:

The Cliffhanger – In the end Vanya’s power wrecks the moon causing the apocalypse. Five realizes the only way out is to time travel with Vanya to prevent the end from occurring. As the city was destroyed they manage to make the time jump. This is a great cliffhanger but it is a cliffhanger, if the show had gotten canceled this ending would have sucked.

I highly recommend both the comic and the show. “The Umbrella Academy” explores trauma, abuse and sibling relationships in such a compelling way that even though I hate cliffhangers I was grateful that the show would probably get renewed. I want to spend more time with these characters and this world and I can’t wait to see where the story ends up. Definitely worth checking out for any fans of the super hero genre.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 A great start to the show, even with the cliffhanger.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019): A Film With no Likable Characters

Velvet Buzzsaw Cast & Character Guide | ScreenRant

     There aren’t many great “Netflix” films and this film continues that. I like that we are getting all these new original and oftentimes experimental films but so often these films have characters that are completely unlikable or a plot reveal that just isn’t scary or says anything. All these cons are things that “Velvet Buzzsaw” suffers from. This is a film that had so much potential (premise of haunted artwork is just cool) but it is a film that I would not recommend. The premise and initial tension are the only things holding this film up.

“Velvet Buzzsaw” was directed and written by Dan Gilroy.

The story follows art critic Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose lover Josephina (Zawe Ashton) discovers many paintings from her deceased neighbor Vetril Dease. When she steals them and the exhibit picks them up strange things begin happening around the Studio which leads to Morf investigating as his life begins to fall apart.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The idea of haunted paintings is really neat. What if the images could come to life and get you? It is a creepy concept because art is everywhere and in this instance all it takes is the paint spreading for the horror to travel to other things that would be in an art studio giving haunted abstract art or bringing speaking robots to life. This concept done right could easily become a favorite horror film for me, this is not that film.

The Tension – The tension is one of the few good things that works in this film. Weird things happen and people start dying leading to it continuing to build. The problem is by the time the final comes around it doesn’t matter how good the tension is because none of the characters matter. They are all terrible people so you have no reason to hope they survive the scenes that build up to deaths.

The Cons:

The Characters – The characters are why this movie sucks. The premise works, the tension works but the characters are awful and even if they were wrote that way, they should at least be directed to be sympathetic. By the end of the film I hated all of them and because of it I didn’t care what happened to them so the basic horror premise became meaningless. If you have a cast full of characters and them dying is what is raising the stakes, than you have to be given a reason to care about said characters. Not a single one of these characters were sympathetic. They were all selfish and back stabbing and those who could have been sympathetic never got properly developed.

I really can’t recommend this film. I’m picky with what horror movies I watch and this film is a great example of why. I need to care about characters or else jump scares and tension building means absolutely nothing. Again, I didn’t hate this film as the concept and the tension were done well, but a story with no compelling characters is a story I will never recommend to anyone. This is a Netflix original film that really isn’t worth your time. Like many Netflix films I wish there was more to say, but it is hard to do so when the film itself says and means nothing.

Final Score: 4 / 10

 

Top 5 Episodes in “Love, Death & Robots” Season 1

انمي Love Death and Robots الموسم 1 مترجم الحلقة 13 - هلال ...

     “Love, Death & Robots” is an amazing Sci. Fi. Anthology show on Netflix. It is original and the basic concept is original and adapted science fiction short stories are done by different animators and often times adapted from stories from known sci. fi. writers. It is a beautiful anthology and tackles a lot of the popular concepts of time, personhood, self, identity, meaning, etc. that the best sci. fi. stories cover. The series overall is great, with 18 total episodes. There were some okay and good episodes too, which was why I chose this format. The great stories stand out and are the ones I want to talk about. If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy or great animation, this is a Netflix original show, well worth your time.

The series was created by Tim Miller, with himself, Joshua Doden, David Fincher and Jennifer Miller as producers.

In my episode reviews I will attributing the author who inspired each story if there is one. This is partially because I want to go back and read the stories, especially since I know some of these folks from other works and want to give them credit for inspiring such an amazing show. I also won’t be giving scores this time around. Each of these stories are worlds I’d like to return to, and I feel like I can’t judge a short story in this case, the way I’d judge a movie or a full episode of a show. I also can’t wait to read them.

SPOILERS ahead. I’ll try not to give away too much, but sometimes I will have to mention what makes the story work, which in short stories is often the reveal, which is what these are.

Don't miss these six 'Love, Death, & Robots' shorts

5th) “Good Hunting”

Episode 8, based on story by Ken Liu.

“Good Hunting” is a sad, beautiful and intriguing story that also has a sense of justice in the end. It takes place in an alternate universe where Britain conquers and turns China into a steampunk Colony. The animation is like a painting or a classic anime and I wanted to be more in this world, simply from the animation alone. It really sets the scene of China, really well. Before all this the main story involves a boy who hunts shapeshifters with his father and saves the daughter of the shapeshifter his father is hunting. They become friends and he becomes an engineer and she becomes a prostitute in the conquered China under British Rule. Both of them experience change in who they are and they talk about it together. They weren’t who they were as kids and colonization has changed not just the country but each of them. It has built the son up in regards to his engineering even though he is broken and she is torn apart. Thankfully justice happens, but so much pain happens inbetween. This is a sorrowful story, where the only bright light is the friendship between the son and the shapeshifter’s daughter. I loved it though, this story has things to stay against Imperialism, sexism and the nature of self. I can’t wait to read more of Ken Liu’s work as I loved his translation of the novel “The Three Body Problem,” by Liu Cixin. This story has that same kind of depth, which is why it made my Top 5 of the season, beyond the tragic compelling characters.

Love, Death And Robots: The Witness: Ending Explained ...

4th) “The Witness”

Episode 3, written by Alberto Mielgo.

“The Witness” was written by it’s director Alberto Mielgo and this was a story that grew on me the more I thought about it. The basic premise is two individuals caught in a time loop. Whenever one kills the other, the cycle starts over again. The dreamlike nature portrayed in the colors in the art contributes to the experience. This feels like the mixture between reality and a dream, which contributes to the point of the story. It is hard to talk about it without spoiling it because the whole premise is what makes it compelling beyond the “Blade Runner” inspired world. I could have easily spent more time here. We never get to know the characters beyond the desperation, but they are characters born out of their environment. The constant rush and tension is illustrated in the events that happen in the loop and it was impossible to pull away. I’d really like to see what else Mielgo is capable of writing. This was a great start and his world is full of untapped potential for future tales.

3rd) “Beyond the Aquila Rift”

Episode 7, based on story by Alastair Reynolds.

“Beyond the Aquila Rift” was a story that almost scored lower because it repeats a song it plays in the middle of the episode. This made it feel like a musical to me, but the basic premise won in the end, especially when coupled with the almost real animation. What does it mean for an alien to care for another completely alien to it? This basic premise defines the relationship between our protagonist and the form the alien takes as a past lover to relate to him and to give him happiness, as he is in a place he cannot return from. What sold it for me, beyond this basic premise is how the reality of where he is looks like a hellscape. The tone here completely changes and suddenly the aliens good intentions don’t feel so benign, especially since one of the crew members once awakened sees past the illusion of her form. We never know her or it’s intentions though. That is why this works so well. He could be in bliss as she feeds off him to trap more people (she also looks like a spider in her true form, which adds to this) but they might have really gotten lost and truly can’t back, in which case it is giving empathy and caring in the only way it knows how and it easing suffering. This complexity is truly why this story works in the end.

Spoiler Free Review of ‘Love, Death, and Robots: Sonnies ...

2nd) “Sonnie’s Edge”

Episode 1, based on story by Peter F. Hamilton.

“Sonnie’s Edge” is a story that is all about the twist, but it is a really good one. This takes place in a world where humans control monsters to fight each other and from it win money and fame. When Sonnie is asked to throw the game, she refuses leading to them targeting her. In the end they succeed when she takes a liking to the lover of the man who wants them to throw the game. What they don’t realize is (and I’m not sure if her crew know it or not, since we are never shown) is that Sonnie is really the monster. She is the beast in the pits always fighting for her life and the human is just her robot avatar. For me the questions that it sparked were the intelligence of the monsters (given she manipulated things to win in the end) and what that means for others like her. A lot could happen in this world, especially since at least her species is capable of controlling A.I. and making friends with humans. All this leads to her getting revenge against the people who wanted to kill her (they kill her robot avatar) and her implied escape. It is beautifully done and the reveal is perfect. The designs of the monsters are also worth commenting on. They look like Kaiju from “Pacific Rim” and it gives them a distinct character and threat.

Love, Death & Robots Episode 14: Zima Blue Ending ...

1st) “Zima Blue”

Episode 14, based on story by Alastair Reynolds.

What is the purpose of life? What is meaning? This is the core question that this story asks as we learn about Zima through the eyes of a journalist. It is in this episode he tells his story as we learn he was once an early A.I. who ever countless years developed intelligence leading to him becoming the greatest artist in the world. it is fascinating how the reveal happens as the A.I. is risking everything for purpose and meaning. The final twist is a gut punch in that it wants to return to it’s original purpose in the end. The original robot was made for cleaning a pool and the symbol of the blue that kept popping up in the complex art of the universe was this robot only find peace in the simple desire to clean the pool and tiles to look like that color. As someone who loves philosophy and finds the importance of living to be a prime question, this episode is sci. fi. at it’s best. It takes that question beyond survival, love or horror (which many of the stories have above) and breaking it down to it’s base parts. Which in this instance is an immortal person with so much knowledge, returning to the basic knowledge of cleaning a pool. It is profound and it supposed to make you question. Beyond that the art is like Zima’s paintings and and fits the narrative so well. I’m looking forward to checking out Reynolds’s work. He is on this list twice and this story is truly a magnum opus.

I’m going to say it one last time. If you are a sci. fi. fan, check out “Love, Death & Robots.” It is easily one of the best things on Netflix right now and I really hope it gets renewed, so we can see more stories brought to life.