Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Season 3, Episode 14 – “Heart of Stone” – Forging a Separate Identity

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  This is a review that was inspired to honor the life of Aron Eisenberg, who died September 21st, 2019 of this year. I know him largely because of his role as Nog, who is easily one of the most well rounded character in “Star Trek” to have one of the most well developed arcs. I’m grateful I got to hear more of his story and the lives he touched in the “What We Left Behind” Documentary. Aron was amazing in this role and his podcast he formed after is amazing too. The world lost an amazingly talented individual this year and my heart goes out to his family. I chose this episode because of how well it captures the arc Nog goes through and the choice he makes as well as the sheer range of Aron Eisenberg had as an actor. Before I get into spoilers, this is a good episode you should watch.

The episode was directed by Alexander Singer and written by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe.

The story follows Odo and Kira as they pursue a Maquis Raider leading to Kira becoming trapped in a collapsing cave, as on “Deep Space Nine” Nog wants join Starfleet and finds himself up against his past and Federation prejudice.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Odo and Kira Plot – The Odo and Kira plot is really an exploration of Odo and one of the core reasons why he hasn’t rejoined his people in the Gamma Quadrant. It is here we see it is due to his deep friendship and love of Kira. At one point when he believes she will die he stays with her, willing to risk his own life because being with her matters that much. We can see how much their relationship has grown over the years too, as the episode starts out with them bickering like a married couple. It is a well done plot that is only made less by the reveal and us having to wait for the true payoff later.

Nog and Starfleet Prejudice – The B Plot involves Nog and his coming of age. It begins with him in Ferengi custom giving his earnings to in Ferengi society would be his mentor to train him in whatever art of business he is seeking. In this case Nog gives his gold pressed latinum to Commander Sisko. Sikso at first doesn’t believe him and it isn’t just him. Even Jazdia who is one of the more open minded members of the crew even doubts now genuine Nog is and it not being some trick. It is sad given that Federation prejudice is so strong that even a culture that is open minded isn’t trusting someone who is giving everything to be a part of them. For Commander Sisko this is explored deeper as we learn that the reasons behind Nog wanting to join Starfleet is because he wants a future and he knows he “doesn’t have the lobes” for business, like his father Rom. After this confession he is accepted and Nog’s story in Starfleet begins.

Forging a Separate Identity – The theme of this episode is one of forming a separate identity beyond what is forced upon you. The Founders want Odo to join but he constantly rejects them. It is here where the reveal is Kira was never in danger is discovered and it was the Female Founder all along. Odo’s denial of his people’s desire to control and his attachment to solids is the point of his arc, where in the case of Rom it is his rejection of Ferengi business society and him seeking to be appreciated for his talents for the greater good are there. He forges a separate path, but unlike the Founders who reject Odo’s path…Rom is proud of Nog for the path he chooses.

Nog and Rom – The best arc in this episode is Nog’s arc as we see someone already judged for the mistakes he made as a child and for being a Ferengi opening up and forging his own future. He is the first Ferengi to join Starfleet and this is the episode where it happens. All of this is driven by his father. Rom is abused by his brother Quark and though he is a genius when it comes to tech. Quark doesn’t admit or see it at this point. Nog, is the only one who does and in turn Rom sees the potential that exists in Starfleet for Nog so supports his choice. It is a small scene but the scene Nog and Rom have together when Rom supports his choice is just as powerful as when Commander Sisko does after Nog tells him why he wants to join in the first place. This is the heart of the episode and what makes it so great.

Okay:

The Reveal – The Founders do so much manipulation and this felt like another base Founder Plot. It wasn’t bad but they must have known that Odo cared for the crew as his family too. Making the love for Kira makes sense given what we saw in prior episodes but I fail to see how that is useful to the Founders unless they are going to use Kira to bring Odo back to them. During the “Occupation of Deep Space Nine,” I didn’t see that level of thinking things through. Kira was used but it seems like Odo staying played a bigger factor in them influencing him than Kira. That is why this reveal is fine, but it isn’t great. I would have preferred Kira saying she loved Odo being real. Once you have that confession it just gets weaker when it is the real thing. Don’t do fake outs in shows unless it means you’ll do it in a better way.

If you are a fan of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” you probably loved this episode. This is a great ensemble piece that develops Odo and Nog as well showing that the Federation has prejudice that this episode never really addresses. Why can’t a Ferengi join Starfleet? It makes me think that Worf probably experienced similar prejudice because of the Klingon and Federation Wars. I enjoy episodes that critique the Federation and show that it still needs to grow. This is true to human nature and part of what made “Deep Space Nine” work is because of how it did call out xenophobia, racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry, even as the show itself was still maturing in that growth and did vary by writer. The progressive future of “Star Trek” is one of hope and where I hope someday humanity can be, even if won’t be within my lifetime. “Star Trek” is about the goal of the better future and within the show we see that in the individual fights our characters face, such as what Nog faced in joining Starfleet.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10 This was a great episode in “Deep Space Nine.”

R.I.P. Aron Eisenberg. You touched so many lives and this review is to honor you and the amazing life you lived.

Logan (2017): A Dystopic Western Masterpiece That Explores the Depths of Pain

    “Logan” is the greatest X-Men Films and one of my all time favorite films. This is a film that doesn’t hold back in any way and is powerful because of it. To give my non-spoiler thoughts…it is well worth your time. It is beautifully crafted, has a powerful emotional core that drives it and has a point in some of the overarching themes on both the personal and larger societal level (a theme of X-Men films I’ve always appreciated). I’ll get into the details of all these things later into the review.

     The film was directed by James Mangold who wrote the screenplay along with Scott Frank and Michael Green while being produced by Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner.

    The story takes place in 2029 and all the X-Men are gone except for Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who is taking care of a dying Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is losing control of his powers and is only able to keep them in check with medication. Wolverine has become a drunk as well and it takes a mutant child called X-23 (Dafne Keen) coming into their lives as she escapes from the Transigen Corporation who created her and other children who she is trying to find to escape to safety in Canada.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is one where there are no more X-Men and we never get a full explanation (a virus is what is implied but never fully explained). Transigen has cyborg mercs who are hunting down mutants and the world is desolate with extreme poverty and wealth. The world is a reflection of ours, as the good X-Men films tend to do.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and captures the pain and isolation of our characters…from the stark contrasts of light and dark…and splotches of blood or shadow. This is a world that reflects our broken characters.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is very much western in theme, which is what I consider the film to be, more so than an X-Men film as the characters didn’t have to be the people they were for the story to work. This story stands strong on it’s own and the soundtrack reflects that. Marco Beltrami made a fantastic soundtrack.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest part of the film as it is their wrestling with their pain and choices they make from it that define them and the film.

Donald Pierce – Pierce is head of the Reavers and is a charming, brutal character. I wish he’d been the big bad as the Mad Scientist was pretty lame. Pierce just loved the joy of the hunt and being in control and respected power. This made him interesting and it takes a lot to take him down.

The Family – There is an African-American family that takes them in that the Reavers with the Wolverine clone destroy. It is the first bit of compassion our characters experience and it all ends with the father holding a gun at Wolverine even after Wolverine saves him from his clone…it is such a tragic course of events that leads to both the death of Professor X and Logan and Laura back on the road.

Caliban – Is an albino mutant who can track mutants and is taking care of Xavier. He is a kind and desperate mutant who ends up being used by the Reavers again (he was used by the corporation in the past) but sacrifices himself so that Logan and Laura can escape. I really liked his character. He is fearful and it is contrasted with Xavier’s sorrow and Logan’s rage.

Laura / X-23 – Dafne Keen is a great actress. She gives an intensity to her character where it is believable that she was created and experimented on in a lab. You can understand her rage and her killing Reavers and becoming a family with Professor X and Logan is beautiful…as is her losses she goes through. She is one of the clear leader among the New Mutants that Transigen created.

Charles Xavier / Professor X – Charles is going crazy and is suffering from brain degeneration that he has to take pills for, in order to control his powers. He is the external conscience for Logan though as he is the one who helps Laura find them and is the one always pushing Logan to help her. He is full of regrets for those he hurt when he lost control of his powers and his manipulative past…In the end he confesses all of this but no one hears as he is killed. It is tragic and fits the lonely, regret and despair that pervades and follows our heroes. Patrick Stewart once again is acting gold.

Logan / Wolverine – Hugh Jackman gives one of his best performances ever in this role. We get to see him drunk and desperate, sorrowful and in despair, rageful and moments of joy and empathy. He truly owns this character and I’m grateful he got this beautiful sendoff as his character has redemption and becomes an X-Men again.

The Ending – The ending is so sad. The New Mutants escape to Canada but Logan dies, killed by his clone as he finds his core as an X-Men again but at the expense of his life…Though he dies happy as he protects the girl who became family to him and was his daughter, and not just because she was made with his DNA. The scene is powerful and there aren’t many words at his funeral but it captures that even in desperation people can find the will to move forward.

Regret and Pain – Regret and pain are major themes of the film as both Logan and Xavier live with regrets of all those they hurt, killed or destroyed as this is a core motivation for what drives them to protect others, specifically Laura. They are broken from their mistakes and are surrounded by a world that reflects them.

Persecution of Immigrants and Refugees – From Transigen hunting the New Mutants across borders and trying to stop them from escaping to safety in Canada (the current refugees and immigrants doing the same with Trumps immoral new policies), this is a major theme of the story and is one that has always existed in X-Men as persecution and acceptance and compassion for the other is one of the greatest themes of the X-Men.

Pain, Healing and Getting Outside the Self – Healing and looking outside of the self is a major theme of Logan’s character and this film is him finding it again, even after all he has lost and all the pain he’s gone through. This arc ends with his powerful sacrifice for other New Mutants, as Logan once more becomes an X-Men (reflected in the cross at his grave being turned into an X by Laura).

The Cons: Zander Rice – This guy is Mad Scientist ^TM  and anyone could have played him. I wish the Reavers had been the main threat or a scientist who better reflected the world. This world felt like Mad Max and needed a Mad Max type villain. Someone to be Professor X or Logan’s foil. All this guy wanted was power and to create and control mutants and we never see him do anything outside of the lab and hunting our heroes. A better villain like Bane, Joker or Immorten Joe would have made this film perfect.

   This was a film that achieved everything it set out to do, with the only con I could really find being how forgettable the main villain was. Everyone else served a purpose that drove the story in narrative in a rewarding way and had payoff at the end. This is a film that reminds us how important it is to look outside of ourselves, no matter what the cost is and that the actions we do matter and can make a difference even in the worst of world circumstances. This film will probably make my Top 5 Films of 2017 as it is one of the best super hero and comic book films I have ever watched and is a beautiful, tragic film with an unforgettable story. What a sendoff for Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

The Hounds of Baskerville (1959): Hammer’s Good Adaptation of a Classic

The Hound of the Baskervilles

     Hammer pulled off a pretty good “Sherlock Holmes” adaptation! What certainly helped was having Sir Christopher Lee as Henry Baskerville and Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, but it wasn’t simply this either. This was one of the early color films and their use of cinematography creates very powerful images that drive the story.

     The film was directed by Terrance Fisher, written by Peter Bryan and produced by Anthony Hinds, Anthony Nelson Keys and Kenneth Hyman.

  The story involves Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Dr. Watson (Andre Morell) being asked to come to the Baskerville Manor to protect Henry Baskerville (Sir Christopher Lee) and solve the mystery of the Hound of Baskerville and the Curse of the Baskervilles as they have been slowly killed off under mysterious circumstances.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and I think this is reason this version of the story received critical acclaim. It is one of the earliest color films and this is used to create beautiful color contrasts, especially with the use of red in regards to blood or murders.

The Prologue – The prologue is haunting and realizes that the Baskervilles were people high on their privilege who used it to rape and beat those on their land…which bread resentment leading to the final end of what we see in the modern day. The scenes are haunting and beautiful as this is where we see the Baskerville’s on in red symbolizing their lust and hedonism.

Henry Baskerville – Christopher Lee is fantastic as this character who just wants to do the right thing! He is the guy trying to set things right and get away from what his ancestors have done. To this end he helps those on his land and we see him very aware of other people. This also makes him susceptible when the Stapletons exploit this to try and kill him so they can get the fortune as their as Baskerville bastards.

The Stapletons – Cecile the daughter is the one who almost kills Henry to get revenge on what was done to her ancestors by the Baskervilles of the past and her father is in on it too. They have a dog they have made feral that they set on Henry but are killed when Watson and Sherlock stop them and Cecile falls into one of the sink holes in the moor.

Sherlock Holmes – Peter Cushing is amazing at Sherlock Holmes! His is a very sharp and cold Holmes and one who is very much the manipulator…this is perfect as he plays up Sherlock’s detachment and skepticism making a very enjoyable performance. Cushing truly owns this role and is a big reason besides Lee why I enjoyed this film so much.

Okay: Dr. Watson – Watson is alright and he does have a great voice but he also is just kind of there. Andre Morell isn’t memorable and so far the only memorable Watsons have been Lucy Liu as Joan and Martin Freeman in “Sherlock.”

The Minor Characters – Henry’s friend is unmemorable as are a lot of the other characters who aren’t Stapletons…which is a shame as the world could have got fleshed out a lot more.

The Cons: The Soundtrack – It is very Hammer (horrorish in the classic sense) and just doesn’t work. I would have preferred they do something more original given what made this film work was how it was unlike a Hammer film and got away from a lot of their tropes and going for cheapness.

   This film is not a favorite but it is really good and it is one I’d recommend. Cushing as Sherlock and Lee as Henry Baskerville drive the story and the early color cinematography makes for creating amazing cinematography that captures the mystery and haunting nature of the moors on the Baskerville estate.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The Intouchables (2011): An Amazing Story About Connection Between Outcasts

the_intouchables

    “The Intouchables” is extremely deserving of all the praise it has received. It has gotten criticism in some circles for being racist but I’d have to disagree, and I’ll go into the reasons why in deeper into the review. To give part of my answer now though, the critics who see the film as racist do not give Driss enough credit as a character or the fact that his agency is what drives the plot, not Philippe’s.

    The film was directed and written by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano and produced by Nicolas Duval-Adassovsky, Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou and Harvey Weinstein.

     The story is about Driss a Senelgese immigrant to France who ends up taking a job with the paraplegic Phillipe when he needs Phillipe to sign off on a welfare paper so that his family can receive money. From here the story unfolds as Driss’s past and family eventually meet up with his new life caring for Philippe as Philippe deals with racism from his own class background and how dismissive most people are of him because of he is a paraplegic.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – This film has one of my all time favorite soundtracks. The music gave me chills, especially since the scenes matched up with the music seamlessly. Ludovico Einaudi is truly a master of his craft and I want to hear more of his work after this.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and presents the fear or the freedom in different moments so well. Be it the car ride at the beginning and end of the film or the moments where Driss or Philippe are isolated from the world.

The Writing – The script is quick and witty and there is so much great banter between Driss and Philippe as Philippe is overly proper and Driss could care less. This leads to a great dynamic between the two. Magalie’s witty dialogue and Marcelle’s empathy are also beautifully written.

The Characters – Any of the characters we see for multiple scenes who speak get great exploration! This especially applies to the women who are Philippe’s aids. We see their romantic relationships and friendship with Driss develop over time and see how they change one another.

Magalie – Magalie is the character who Driss takes an immediate liking too but is not interested in him but loves to play around since she knows it will never go anywhere as she values the friendship and she is a lesbian, which is the reveal we have at the end. All the minor characters in this are great and Audrey Fluerot does an amazing job!

Marcelle – Marcelle is one of the people who is standoffish of Driss at first while Driss is getting used to living in the house. That changes when Driss shows awareness that she didn’t have, both in regards to the drugs she was taking to help with her stomach and her attraction to the gardener. She is Driss’s closest friend when Philippe asks Driss to leave. Clotilde Mollet does a wonderful job.

Philippe – François Cluzet plays one of the main stars who became paraplegic during his risk taking adventures that he used to share with his wife. This leads to him not having any confidence in his looks or physical appearance and leads to a huge insecurity and guardedness. This changes when Driss treats him like Driss would anyone and he values it since Driss doesn’t see a disability, he just sees Philippe. Eventually when Driss’s cousin is in hiding he kicks him out though and gives into the pressure from the rich white French folks from his family and older friends who never liked Driss but never are around unless they have to be. When he realizes that he when his next caregiver is treating him like a patient he has enough of it and has one last adventure with Driss. Cluzet does an amazing job and since he cannot move his body all his acting is in his face.

Driss – Driss is a character who has given up but after choosing to stay and help Philippe changes and finds he has passions beyond just existing, which was what he was doing before when he was getting welfare for his family. It is this passion for life that he discovers that rubs off on Philippe and from where they build their friendship. The story is really driven by Driss and we see this in the introduction as he bets with Philippe how the cops will react to them at different points as he is driving Philippe’s sports car. In the end he and his Aunt makeup and he leaves Philippe as a caregiver since he’s made his own path and had been the entire time, though in the credits we see that they still remained friends. Omar Sy is rich in this role.

Themes – The greatest themes in this are prejudice and how wrong is (in racism or prejudice towards a person based physical difference), to not fear to take chances (be it meeting someone new, a date or making up with someone you have wronged), and the theme of freedom (with a great flying scene and a few shots of birds).

The Message – The message is one that many films have done but it is done well here. That the groups that are looked down upon be they groups based on class, race or body are wrong and that all anyone wants in the end is to be free. We see in Driss’s talk with his cousin, in Philippe’s desire to fly and in Driss’s exploration of art and how he acts. He is never a servant or subservient as his entire way of being is a reaction to that and we see this when Philippe’s adopted daughter treats him like a servant and the other times Driss calls people out. Driss is a character who never loses agency, unlike Philippe who loses it the moment Driss leaves and he is stuck with a caregiver who treats him like a patient.

The Cons: Not Enough Time with Driss’s Family or Past – We learn a lot when Driss shares his backstory about how his Aunt and Uncle always wanted children so they adopted him from his parents in Senegal but things got complicated after his Uncle left and his Aunt had more kids. You get that because he was adopted he felt rejected and was never able to form a close bond, but you don’t hear this in the scenes with his family and that took away from the film.

Driss and Women – Driss is creepy sometimes and Magalie has to say no multiple times before he finally fully realizes it. I don’t know how purposeful this was or if it was a poor attempt at comedy, but those scenes were uncomfortable…especially since Driss has a lot more awareness with everyone else. It takes him much longer to learn with Magalie, which is a shame.

   This film is not perfect, but it is a favorite and I do think the criticism it has received for racism in regards to Driss can be argued certainly but I don’t see it in the actions or agency that the character lives. He drives the story and is arguably the main character, not Philippe. The one thing I would have changed is more time with his Aunt and cousins. We never get to know them the way we get to know the folks who worked with Philippe, but this is largely because Driss’s Aunt kicks him out of her house. How things could have been changed is giving more of the reasons why and more of Driss’s backstory earlier as it is an amazing backstory and I wanted to know more, even though the core focus was on the friendship between him and Philippe. Suffice to say, I recommend this film highly.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

The Imitation Game (2014): The Dilemmas of War and the Life and Legacy of Alan Turing

The Imitation Game

       “The Imitation Game,” deserves all the hype and rewards it recieved. This is a film that manages to cover the dilemmas of war and the choices those in power are given in regards to how a war is handled to save the most lives, it deals with equality and prejudice as we see how Turing difference in personality leads to his isolation and also the homophobia of the government that leads to his tragic end even though it was his mind and actions that helped bring about a sooner end to World War 2. More on all of this though, later on.

     The film was directed by Morten Tyldum, written by Graham Moore and produced by Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman and based off the story Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

      The story is that of Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the story of how he broke the German Enigma Code during World War 2. It follows from when he is first taken on by Commander Dennisten (Charles Dance) to break the code and unfolds from there as he tries to construct a machine and connect with the members of his Team. When he becomes leader of his Team he takes on Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley) whose abilities are doubted because she is a woman by society and the military. In the present Turing is telling his story to a detective on how the events of the war unfolded.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is absolutely beautiful. Every shot looks like a stark photograph and captures Turing’s alienation and isolation from those around him and from there the times he is connected to others, like his friend and most likely first love Christopher. Oscar Faura did a fantastic job.

The Soundtrack – This is one of my favorite soundtracks, and I soon learned why. Alexandre Desplat who also did the soundtrack for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” the two “Deathly Hallows” films and countless other great soundtracks did this one too. In this he also captures the internal isolation or pressure that Turing is under as well as capturing his soaring moments too and the claustrophobia of the War.

The Script – The script is great at showing and only telling when it needs to. We learn about Turing being gay during his wedding when one of his friends on the Team tells him he’s figured it out and that he doesn’t feel romantic attraction towards his fiance Joan. The dialogue is also quick, and when Turing and Joan have their sarcastic or quippy moments it is quite enjoyable, it also captures Turing’s very literal mind and his trouble reading expressions and figures of speech.

The Characters – For the most part every character gets fleshed out. We get to see the two sides of every person or at least get a better idea of why a character does whatever they do and what their motivations are.

Commander Denniston – Charles Dance is great in this role. He is the general who cares about his men and has fought in wars before. He distrusts Turing since Turing is agnostic on War and the need for it but accepts him when he figures out they’re trying break Enigma. He later tries to get him kicked out though but is stopped when Turing goes to Churchill and becomes leader of the Team, though he nearly loses everything again when Denniston tries to shut the machine down when it is running but not giving any information. His character is a lot like Tywin, practical and invested in the big picture who doesn’t deal well with things and people he doesn’t understand.

Hugh Alexander – Matthew Goode is great in this role. Hugh is the one person comparably smart to Turing and sticks to the old ways until Turing wins him over by finally including them all in trying to make the machine work. He threatens resignation when Denniston comes to shut down the machine and from that he and Turing become friends. He is a bit of a womanizer but a good guy.

John Cairncross – Cairncross is the kindest of the Team at first but we soon see this is two-faced when he threatens to reveal Turing as Gay when Turing finds out he’s a spy. He still works with them all though and shows that agenda a double agent might have, in this case the Soviets are the allies of the U.K. so why not get them information? MI-6 knows this and supports it we learn as Churchill has been too paranoid to get the Soviets information that would help them win the war against Nazi Germany.

General Menzies – The head of MI-6 and the one person who appreciates Turing besides Joan. I don’t know if he’s good since he’s making decisions that by their very nature are grey. He lies about the existence of Turing’s machine so no one will know they have a weapon in conflict and he has everyone burn the information tied the machine at the end of the film. He is all business but appreciates those who can keep secrets, which is my he makes Alan Turing a spy, knowing that he holds more secrets than many of his agents. Mark Strong is great in this role.

Joan Clarke – Knightley plays the other outsider who gives us the feminist perspective in all of this. She points out she can’t afford to be a jerk because she isn’t a man so no one will listen to her if she is one, where they are listening to Turing even though he can insufferable sometimes. She loves his mind and when he admits he’s gay she stands by him knowing they are only together as friends. It’s a touching scene and you get the idea they are both outcasts who have trouble connecting to anyone besides one another, Turing because of the loss of his friend and love Christopher and Clarke because she is not her expected role in the sexist British society.

Alan Turing – Cumberbatch deserved a nomination for this role. In the beginning he sounds like Sherlock but soon we get the distinct voice of Turing a very literal minded person who sees himself as smarter than everyone (which in most cases he is) and has to learn empathy for others (which Joan helps him with) when he experienced none from others minus Christopher growing up. He is all about solving puzzles, agnostic on the issue of violence and in the end helps end the war 2 years earlier. Sadly all he has is his work in the end as the Government chemically castrates him and this further isolation and alienation leads to his suicide. Turing story is that of a tragedy as he is a strange and brilliant man who did nothing wrong and was castrated only because he loved men. R.I.P. Alan Turing and all those throughout history and modern day like him.

The Dilemmas of War – There are a few situations where dilemmas are presented. One of Turing’s Team Members discovers that Germans will be attacking an area where his brother is and if they warn the military they can be saved. Turing points out that if the Germans learn they solved Enigma it won’t matter, more men will die and they could still lose the war. Another dilemma was in constructing “Christopher” the Machine. The old way was saving lives using people and the more energy that was put into the machine the less time to try and break the daily changing code. Continuing the machine or going the old way and saving some lives was another issue presented of conflict during wartime.

The Message – The message is that of equality and how important is to be accepting of differences and that it is our differences that define us. It is powerful and you see the horrors that LGBTQ folks still face in the United States and areas of the world. They may not have been chemically castrated in the U.S. anymore but in many places it is still a death sentence and it is the prejudice that Turing faces that most likely lead to his suicide. R.I.P. Alan Turing and all those who took their life because they could not find acceptance in love in this world because of prejudice and homophobia. So many great minds gone so early, just like Turing who was only 41 years old.

Okay: Christopher – Christopher is such an important character, Turing names his machine after him…but we never get to know him fully and he’s never fully fleshed out. This is one of the few issues that I really have with this film. I wish we could have gotten to know Christopher better beyond his brilliance and kindness to Alan.

The Cons: Historical Accuracy – The film takes some major liberties with Turing’s life which this article expresses beautifully. This is an issue for me in any historical biopic and is always a con…if your pouring a lot of money into a film, at least try to make it as accurate as possible since the story was great enough to be told in the first place.: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/03/the_imitation_game_fact_vs_fiction_how_true_the_new_movie_is_to_alan_turing.html

    This is a favorite film and deserves all the awards and praise it has received. Cumberbatch and Knightley are fantastic and the story has a message that rings true to this day. The ways we love, especially between consenting adults should be celebrated and not punished. This core message, the dilemma’s of war and Turing’s Life expressed, along with an unforgettable soundtrack, great cinematography and message make this a film that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 4 – “The Warriors of Kyoshi” – The Price of the Avatar

ATLA season 1 ep 4

      This was an amazing episode! This is the episode where Aang and Sokka both get a lot of growth as they have to deal with their inbuilt prejudices. For Sokka it is dealing with his prejudice against the idea of women as warriors and for Aang it’s his entitlement of being Avatar and avoidance of responsibility. So much good was done with this.

      The director of the episode was Giancarlo Volpe and written by Nick Malis and Aaron Ehasz.

      The story involves Aang stopping at Kyoshi Island to ride the giant fish until they are attacked by the Unagi which leads to them getting captured by the Kyoshi Warriors. From here the story unfolds as Sokka faces his prejudices and Aang soaks in the attention he never received growing up and becoming arrogant in the process.

The Pros: The Kyoshi Warriors –

Kyoshi Island – This Island has so much character! From the Warriors of Kyoshi and the leader just trying to protect his people, from fangirls of the Avatar and the fact that they nation is isolated and mentions that they want no part in the war against the Fire Nation. This Island has character.

Zuko – Zuko has anger issues which leads to a comedic moment with Iroh when Iroh mentions they don’t know where the Avatar is, and when they tell him he’s on Kyoshi Island. In both instances Zuko loses it.

Suki – Suki is the leader of the Kyoshi Warrios and she’s a badass, and one of my favorite characters on the show. We see her put Sokka in his place when he is sexist, but also see that she is forgiving when he apologizes and she agrees to teach him. From there they form somewhat of a budding romance as she kisses him before fighting Zuko to give them more time to escape.

Sokka – Sokka grows a lot in this episode. He realizes his prejudice against the idea of warrior women and is corrected when Suki beats him twice leading him to ask to be trained by her, even going to far as to wear their female garb for the opportunity to learn their fighting style. His growth is truly wonderful in this episode.

Katara – Katara is a bit jealous of how popular Aang is with the Avatar fangirls, but she also sees the bigger picture and ends up being right in the end…as the war comes to them and Aang realizes that his staying in one place just puts people at risk. She really learns to communicate in this episode as her and Aang don’t talk until the moment before he is attacked by the Unagi near the end.

Aang – Aang is a kid and it shows. He revels in the popularity he receives at the village since Kyoshi was one of the past Avatars, but once his popularity wains he realizes how arrogant he was and how wrongly he treated Katara.

The Message – The message is to remain humble, communicate and to question your prejudices as well as don’t be sexist. All these themes are explored in the different characters and done really well, which is saying a lot as episodes are only 20 minutes long.

Okay: Aang’s stupidity – Aang’s stupidity was annoying in how he was reveling in the attention. I get it, he is a kid…but it did get grating after a while.

     I really enjoyed this episode. There were some great character moments with Sokka and the Kyoshi Warriors and the introduction of Suki, one of my favorite characters in the series. We also Aang dealing with the fact he is a kid with ego, even if he is a monk. Every character grows in this and we see a fully fleshed out culture on Kyoshi Island too. This episode was everything I love about this show.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Gargoyles Pilot – Season 1, Episodes 1-5 – “Awakening” – A Matter of Trust

Gargoyles-AwakeningPartTwo40

“Gargoyles” was a show that I loved when I watched it in College, at least the first 2 seasons. I couldn’t get through season 3 because of the animation but may try again later. For this though, I’m going to be reviewing Season 1 and starting with the 5 Part Pilot of “Awakening.” Suffice to say I was impressed.

Part of the reason I loved this show were all the guest stars from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that really got a chance to shine. Folks from one of my favorite sci. fi. shows in one of my favorite fantasy shows. It was a win win.

The story was written by Eric Luke and Michael Reaves and directed by Kazuo Terada and Saburo Hashimoto.

The story of “Gargoyles” begins in the past in Scotland. Gargoyles lead by Goliath protect the Scots from viking attacks, but one day they are betrayed by a man they consider a friend which leads to the vikings exterminating most of the gargoyles and enslaving the Scots. When the survivors free the Scots the Princess goes missing and they are blamed and turned to stone until the castle is above the skies. Goliath decides to join them and 1000 years pass and they brought to the present by Xanatos who puts their castle on top of his building. The story than unfolds as they deal with trusting humans, a reveal from the past and Goliath’s budding relationship with Detective Maza.

Demona

Here is the assessment of the episodes:

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is fantastic! Who would have thought making gargoyles living creatures who experience prejudice in all time periods would work so well. Them being outsiders and outside of time is part of what makes it so strong as they adapt to the future and finding their way. Having magic in this world works too by the very existence of the gargoyles on the scene. It establishes the fantastic early.

The Gargoyles – They can glide, live in clans and turn into stone by the light of the sun. They are powerful but have limitations which make them so amazing! They also have reason to distrust humans which makes for an interesting drama from the get go.

The characters: Goliath – The leader and first named of the gargoyles since the Gargoyles don’t have names except the ones humans give them, and Goliath was named so because of how large he was, and the fear related to him. He is a great character who is moral and fights for his people. He does not believe in killing and only does revenge as a last resort, because of his experience with the Princess and her Sorceress realizing they were wrong, he is able to trust again in the future.

Demona – Marina Sirtis from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is Goliath’s mate and takes the name because of how she hates being betrayed time and again by humans. She is the Magneto to Goliath’s Xavier and you can see where she’s coming from. The only thing I hated was when she targets the Gargoyles when they don’t stay loyal to Xanatos, this struck me as out of character…since she is the one trying to protect them in the long term. That was why she made the deal with the captain in the hopes that Goliath would take all the gargoyles to go and hunt down the Vikings.

Detective Maza – She is the one who shows Goliath that not all people are bad and risks her life countless times for him. She is an awesome protagonist and the main human perspective we get outside of Xanatos. She is the anti-Xanatos as she sees beyond herself and truly cares about the gargoyles. Salli Richardson does a good job.

E&Gargs

The Support Characters – Brooklyn (the beaked gargoyle), Hudson (the oldest and the mentor), Lexington (the techie), Broadway (the biggest one) and Bronx (the dog) are all amazing. You see why they care as they experienced kindness from a child and you see why they are the ones who survived, they were the outcasts of the outcasts and punished because they were strange by gargoyle standards and wanted to interact with people. They are the best support characters.

The Princess and the Sorcerer – These two are selfish distrusting folks who eventually feel guilt after the gargoyles sacrifice to save them and promise to protect the gargoyles hatchlings. Probably the weakest but that isn’t there fault as much as a time issue. The episode could have explored them both more, but they achieve their purpose for future episode arcs and showing Goliath not all humans are bad.

Xanatos

Xanatos – This guy has had a trope named after him because he is so intelligent and manipulative. Everything he does is a gambit and he has plans within plans or something to hold over the gargoyles head so that he’ll survive another day. Jonathan Frakes owned this role and he is one of my favorite complicated villains. His motivations work because he feels human even if he Lex Luthory at times. One of the best animated villains and the ultimate chess master. This episode he still has the gargoyles to manipulate at the end and he has nothing to hold over his head. He loses nothing at the episodes end even with the reveal of him trying to kill the gargoyles and only using them for himself.

The Message – There are reasons to trust and not trust people, but differences should not be a factor as there are good people in any group. It’s very X-Meny, but because their gargoyles it adds even more. The gargoyles look nothing like us and are like aliens and are different and good. It is sad every time people react towards fear towards them and seeing Demona consumed by hatred to the point she is no longer the person she was before.

I got to say I highly recommend this Pilot and can’t wait to review the rest of the season. It’s solid and gives a lot of room to explore all the characters. This episode has a wonderful larger point, tells a beautiful story and creates an interesting species of creatures while keeping a dark tone intermixed with hope. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Final Score is 10 / 10. One of the best pilots of any show.