Okja (2017): Where Miyazaki Meets Horror

  “Okja” is a strange and wonderful film. This is a film that starts like a Miyazaki film and ends like horror movie and inbetween tries to political satire and be an all around adventure story. Did it work? Enough to the point that I did enjoy this film and recommend it. Netflix is getting better at putting out quality original work and this is a shining example of a great film of theirs that shows the streaming platform (and often times going cheap) can work for quality original works.

The film was directed by Bong Joon-Ho who co-wrote it along with Jon Ronson.  Bong Joon-Ho also was one of the seven producers on the film. The others were Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lewis Taewan Kim, Dooho Choi, Seo Woo-Sik and Ted Sarandos.

The story involves the Mirando Corporation sending lab designed super pigs around the world to be raised by farmers in the best Pig Competition, where the winner will be crowned in 10 years. During that time Okja, one of the pigs is raised by Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) and her Grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). When the corporation returns and takes Okja Mija goes on a journey to save her friend and fights herself being manipulated by different political factions who want to use Okja to their own ends.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Flawed Characters and Ego – Most of the minor characters in this are compelling in the ways their egos and drive them and make them flawed. There is Jay the leader of the Animal Liberation Front who believes in consent but ignores it for the overall aims in the end, there is Lucy Miranda who wants to make her company better than it is but not face the darker side of the slaughter house and there is the Grandfather who wants his granddaughter to have success but in the end misses how important Okja is to her. These characters make the narrative interesting.

Magical Realism – Giant Pigs created in a lab transported around the world for a Best Pig competition that will take place 10 years later, and one of them is raised by a little girl in the mountains…it is right out of a Miyazaki film and was part of what made this film so fun. I’ve always loved the fantasy in magical realism and this film captures that really well.

A Critique of Ideology over People – Both the ALF and Mirando Corp don’t care about people, only ideology. We see this in how Lucy’s sister turns on her, on the lying that K and Jay both do to Mija in order to serve their overall goals and in the end the hero of this film has no ideology and just wants to be with her pig Okja. This is the core theme of the piece and from that do good where you can as you are and don’t let ideology consume you.

The Cruelty of Factory Farms – The film is extremely against factory farming and you get to see all the parts of it as the Super Pigs get slaughtered and how their different parts go to the different areas of the supermarket. Mija sees this first hand at the end and it is really well done…this is when the film turns into a horror film as we see it all through Mija’s and Okja’s eyes.

The Cons: The Satire – The Corporation doesn’t feel like it is full of people and the ALF is so disconnected and all over the place that they are hard to take seriously as a force. This really brings down the satire as our villains become a bit too cartoonish, which hurts the satirical argument in play.

This is a flawed film that also manages to just be great. Certain characters feel like caricatures (the Mirando Corporate characters as a whole (except maybe Lucy) and some of the Animal Liberation Front Members) but this didn’t bring down my overall enjoyment film. This film is solidly great and now that I’ve watched this and “Snowpiercer,” I can’t wait to see what director Bong Joon-Ho does next.

Final Score: 9 / 10

The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Get Out (2017): A Brilliant Horror Film That Tackles Racism and Privilege

    “Get Out” is one of my favorite horror movies at this point. This is a film that explores deeper ideas while still giving great moments of tension and horror in turn making it so much more. Whether it is racism, power and privilege, this film has a larger point but also does the tension and horror so well. Non-spoiler thoughts, you really should see this film. If you like horror films are even just smart films, check this one out.

  The film was written, directed and produced by Jordan Peele with the other producers being Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Sean McKittrick.

     The story involves Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) going up to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents in the suburbs. All is not as it appears to be though as the overly nice of the town underlays a dark secret as the only other African-Americans in the town give him hints of the mystery in their odd behavior.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Idea – The idea reminds me a lot of “The Stepford Wives” and as that film tacked feminism in critiquing the 1950’s housewife and showing the literal patriarchy in how the wives were constructed to be servants. This is done similar with how objectification of African-Americans. I’ll get into how with the reveal and the characters.

The Writing – The writing is smart and shows the dimension to our characters as well as the humor (which is mostly through Jeremy and Chris’s sarcasm). I always enjoyed Jordan Peele’s shorts which did a great job satirizing some segment of society or culture. This time he does it on a cinematic movie scale. Not many writers can tackle racism and privilege in a subtle way, but it is done here beautifully.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is fantastic and does a great job and raising the tension throughout the film. Michael Abels did a fantastic job.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part as they are characters and not ideas, they would have become ideas to carry the message in a lesser writer’s hands.

Chris – Chris drives the story and is photographer trying to get into college. He’s clearly happy in the relationship with Rose but is smart as he notices when things are off and even tries to go (when he doesn’t know what is fully going on just that he is under threat). It is rewarding when he gets back at the family who was going to use his body for one of the older people in the town (which is why the town exists). Kaluuya does an amazing job.

Jeremy – Jeremy is the genre savvy friend who knows something is up the moment Chris goes to town as for him the warning was Rose not telling her family she had a black boyfriend and when Chris describes the town’s odd behavior, especially those of the African-Americans, he thinks they are being used as sex slaves. He’s wrong about the reasons they are acting weird but was right about how off the town was, and in the end he saves Chris. Jones is hilarious in this role as Jeremy is the character who provides the most comedy with his genre savvyness.

Rose – Rose is a great villain! Through most of the film she is the caring girlfriend who doesn’t justify her parents racist statements but things come to a head at the end where we learn she’s the lure who finds the people for the townspeople to use. She is a great threat and almost kills Chris. Williams has quite the acting range as we see her kindness as well as when she is the cold hunter, finding more targets.

The Family – The family is brilliantly creepy as they act like they are trying to help Chris while having a sick undercurrent. Whether it is her angry brother who says Chris could get strong like an animal thanks to his racial genes and the mother hypnotizes him and uses his own smoking addiction against him, and the father who is the collector and intellectual who clearly sees Chris as a thing the entire time.

The Reveal – The reveal is that the town is using people who come to the town (who Rose collects) for their bodies so the older members can live forever. The original host is nearly dead except for their brain stem (which the movie presents as them watching their body being controlled from a distance).

Objectification in Racism – The objectification starts with the family in how Chris is never really talked to, he is talked at (which plays into the privilege part) and extends to how the family and town talk about his body or people like him. It is brought to it’s fullest degree in the fact that Chris is only wanted for what he can give (his body) not the person he is. That is part of what makes racism, racism. Whether it is excoticizing his form or seeing him as something to be exploited. In the end he was only a thing to the town, not a person. He was wanted for his race not his personhood.

The Power of Privilege – Privilege is the assumption of power over another and this is the core of the terror in the film. The town assumes they have a right to Chris and any other black person they bring to the town. It is through their privilege that they believe they have the right over his body and the body of others and rationalization is their justification.

Okay: The Townspeople – The town could have been developed more. They do fall into the horror pitfall of being the toxic sweetness in how they treat Chris, but they are all part of the organization that wants to live forever. It would have been great to see their motivations and the reasons they want to live forever.

   Jordan Peele is truly a great writer and director. This was a film that Blumhouse produced and I’ve honestly never seen a good film from their studio, until this film. It is kind of sad how good horror movies are hard to find. They are generally made on the cheap, are exploitative, usually by their nature and rarely have a deeper point that is illustrated well. “Get Out” manages to avoid all of these pitfalls and in doing so is up there with the original “Halloween” as one of my favorite horror films of all time. Seriously, check this film out.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 The townspeople could have been developed a bit more.

One-Punch Man – Season 1 Retrospect – A Satire and Celebration of Superheroes

one-punch-man

     “One-Punch Man” is an anime that has been recommended to me by quite a few friends. It was as good as they said. This is a series that satires superheroes as well as celebrating them and gives us some wonderfully well rounded characters, of which I’ll get into more detail about in the review.

   The series was created by a manga author who goes under the pseudonym “One,” Madhouse is the one who produces the anime that I watched.

    The story involves the superhero Saitama who can defeat any enemy in one punch but is never recognized by anyone for what he does. This leads to him joining the Hero Association in order to join recognition after he saves Genos, a cyborg who then becomes his disciple.

The Pros: The World – The world is awesome! You have Superheroes, aliens, monsters and villains and all of them are colorful in personality. Sadly many of them die before there is the chance to know them better since the nature of the show is that Saitama is overpowered.

The Comedy – The comedy and satire are fantastic! Heroes that are larger than life are critiqued in their egos and even overall culture is critiqued in how Saitama saves the world but is never given credit or noticed because his personality leads people to believe it wasn’t him who did it. Genos’s over sincerity and devotion is funny at times too as Saitama really just wanted to be left alone.

The Action – The fights are great, even if the ones with “One-Punch Man” are very short. The introductions and lead up tend to be amazing.

Saitama – Saitama is fun, his Pilot episode starts out with him dreaming of past victories and becoming bored because no one can beat him. In the end he finds that he does it because he loves it though and when Genos introduces him to the world of Heroes that become noticed and famous he joins them too as his desire for more is contrasted with his non-assuming nature.

Genos – Genos is great in that the only way to kill him would be destroy his head and even though he is all robotic he still wants to be the best. He is a character who is driven by his loss of his body and his devotion to Saitama, which is contrasted with his desire to be Saitama’s better and to be accepted, just like what Saitama wants. They really make a great duo.

The Hero Association – The Hero Association is fantastic! You have the lower level S heroes who are ones from a guy riding a bike to how people perceive One-Punch Man. The big heroes are fascinating too as they are celebrities and that has only fed many of their egos making them larger than life.

The Cons: Lack of Great Main Villain – This is a major issue, Saitama is “One-Punch Man” so there is no one who can defeat him. His only challenges really involve his ego or Genos’s struggles and those are great, but why continue the show if that’s all there is to it? A great villain or foil can drive the plot and create great conflict.

   This is a great show that only promise with where it can go. It satirezes heroes wonderfully in how comical they are and in their attitude and costume and also treats them with respect too, This is a world that feels lived in and has consequences for our characters…consequences that in many have yet to be fully explored such as Genos and the influence of the higher ups in the Association.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 Solidly great anime that just needed a better ovearching baddie…a Lex Luthor to Saitama’s Superman.

“The Venture Bros.” Season 1 – Great Characters, Villains and World…I Want to See More

The Venture Bros Episode 2

     I am so glad one of my friends recommended this show. A season done and I can’t wait to see what happens next. This is a show that celebrates and satires Super Hero stories as well as old adventure stories and old adventure television mysteries (think “Scooby-Doo”) suffice to say it has quickly become a favorite show. The greatest part of this show is really the  characters who define the mythos, which I will get into deeper in the review.

    The series was created back Jackson Publick who also wrote a lot of the episodes with Doc Hammer.

     The story involves the misadventures of the Venture Family as they get into a lot of trouble and face their enemies ranging from Baron Underbheit to the Monarch, though their greatest enemy is often themselves.

The Pros: The World – The world of “The Venture Bros.” is awesome! It is a world full of heroes, villains, secret agencies, androids and mysteries. There are super heroes and super villains and each has tons of henchmen to boot. Seriously, it is an awesome world.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack captures the pulpy nature of the show really well. It’s fast and snappy and reminds me of the old Adam West “Batman” and comics from that era….which captures the characters perfectly. J.G. Thirwell is awesome.

The Animation – The animation is awesome. It flows and has a pulpy feel to it that shows us each character and how they tick, from the Venture Bros. running at the beginning to the tall standing Brock to the slouched Dr. Venture. Character mannerisms are captured beautifully in the animation.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part, with the minor one-shot characters being the only time the show really feels weak. The main characters though get some great exploration though.

Jonas Venture Jr. – Jonas Venture Jr. is Dr. Venture’s brother who breaks out of his body (he was eaten in the womb) and wants revenge until Dr. Venture apologizes and gives him half of all he has, showing he is more than just someone out for revenge and is smart and capable of growth.

Hank Venture – Hank is the jock of the Venture Bros. and idealizes Brock even though he is a complete dweeb. He’s usually always fighting his brother Dean. He is obsessed with blaming whatever happens on ghosts and is a lot like Fred from “Scooby-Doo.”

Dean Venture – Dean is the anxious nerd of the brothers who is the first to fall in love (Triana) and is the more sensitive of the two. He is the brother I like more as he has a lot more awareness of his surroundings, though he is just as much a danger to himself as Hank.

Dr. Venture – Dr. Venture is the cynical protagonist who only seems to really care about Brock. We never see him care about his sons except how he can use them to save himself and is a washed up has-been as he even sells a lot of his and his father’s stuff in an episode. He is a character who is apathetic and just doesn’t care. He does have a tender side though, as we see when he is in a relationship with Dr. Girlfriend.

Brock Samson – Brock is my favorite character on the show. The guy is unstable and a walking tank as it takes a lot to bring him down. We see that his one true love is Molotov Cocktease and that he is really doing his own thing most of the time when he isn’t protecting Dr. Venture and the brothers. He also has a good heart too as he helps an ex-military guy and his Bigfoot husband escape.

Old Team Venture – Old Team Venture is pretty great. Gentlman is probably my favorite of them and I can’t wait to see more of how the original Venture interacted with them.

The Villains – The main villains are awesome and each have distinct personalities and motivations, and they go way back, all the way to college in regards to their relationship to Dr. Venture.

Baron Underbheit – Baron Underbheit was a foreign exchange student who was Dr. Venture’s friend. Sadly the friendship when sour after he got his jaw blown off so now he hates him. They still can interact without killing each other though as he goes to Dr. Venture’s yard sale and the funeral of their mutual friend.

Dr. Girlfriend – Dr. Girlfriend is awesome! She was a powerhouse who hooked up with the Monarch and has been the only one holding his operation together. We see her good side countless times though, from her relationship to Dr. Venture to her sadness at the Monarch for when he turns on her. I’m glad she’s sticking around as she is easily the most competent character on the show besides Brock.

the Monarch – the Monarch is an awesome villain! This is a guy who lives by his obsession against Dr. Venture but has everything going against him as he has the maturity of a child and it is that that pushes Dr. Girlfriend away into the Guild of Calamity’s and Phantom Limb’s arms. This is what ends him up in prison with no allies and only his obsession against the Ventures to sustain him. Though he is given depth even then as he likes Hank and Dean and helps them get out of prison (though sadly his minions kill them anyway).

The Satire – The satire is brilliant in this! From the villains and heroes all knowing each other in college, the parent and obsessive issues they all have as well as the Villains have to live by rules laid down by the Guild. Superheroes are satired, mad scientists, villains, pulp and comic stories, etc. Each episode is really worth a second watch and I look forward to Season 2.

   This is a solidly amazing show that knows exactly what it wants to be (a satire and celebration of the pulp genre and the many forms it takes) and an exploration of characters, while always never forgetting the comedy that defines it. If I were to think of any con it would be that some threads get dropped (the Guild and their place in this world, Hank and Dean need more development, etc.). The older characters are fantastic though and even Hank and Dean have their comedic moments leaving only the one shot characters who are joke as the only major con. Regardless, this is an amazing show that I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The Venture Bros. – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Careers in Science” – Doctor Venture’s Daddy Issues

The Venture Bros Episode 2

    “Careers in Science” gives us Dr. Ventures backstory and his main motivation, which is largely based around his father issues as his father is larger than life and used him largely as a tool as seems the case. This episode was a lot of fun and had some great jokes, keeping up the quality I’ve come to expect.

     The episode was directed by Jackson Publick and written by Doc Hammer.

    The story involves Dr. Venture and his team being called to Gargantua 1 to fix it his father was the one who built the Space Station which is now one of the Wonders of the World.

The Pros: Gargantua 1 – This space station truly is a marvel and is fun to see the boys and the others explore. The location is part of what makes the episode.

Docking – Brock Samson uses all the sexual innuendo of docking the ship to do phone sex with Anna Baldavitch. The writers change the music and give the whole thing a red glow too so it’s a complete illusion to sex. It’s hilarious.

Hank and Dean – These two have a small part in this and work mostly as innocents misunderstanding everything as they spend a lot of the episode fighting and mistaking characters for dead and thinking the station has a ghost. At one point they watch Anna and Brock have sex and think they are fighting. They work well for comedy.

Dr. Venture – Dr. Venture is dealing with his daddy issues in this, though he doesn’t realize that he is the one causing most of the problems that need to be solved…as the station was having issues from a toy he left as a child that was stuck in the wires…and later his pee filled space suit sets up the ship for destruction.

Brock Samson – Brock hooks up with Anna and beats up Bud when Bud touches his shoulder. His priorities are hilarious as he seems to live simply for fighting and sex.

Okay: Anna Baldavitch and Bud Manstrong – Bud is the person who is overly formal and obsessive where Anna is the reverse. They didn’t feel fully fleshed out is the thing and seemed to mostly exist as jokes.

This was a great episode, though could have been better if Bud and Anna had been fleshed out as characters more rather than being simply the but of jokes. This episode was still a lot of fun and is another great and favorite episode of television. I’m coming to expect high quality from this show.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Deadpool (2016): A Hilarious Satire of Super Hero Films and a Brilliant Action Film, Romance and Comedy

Deadpool poster

   “Deadpool” is hilarious. This is an action, comedy and romance that is self aware (like Deadpool in the comics who is aware he is in a comic) and from this we get a very tighly written story that explores his origin, mission and even gives him a pretty amazing arc. The film lived up to the hype and I would not at all be surprised if it makes my Top 5 of 2016. I haven’t laughed this hard during a film since “Guardians of the Galaxy” two years ago. This was a film that the Comic Book Film Universes needed with Marvel and the other X-Men films bittersweet drama and DC’s grimdark films.

    The film was directed by Tim Miller and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick while being produced by Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds and Lauren Shuler Donner.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Deadpool’s origin and his quest for revenge against the man who  nearly destroys his life on multiple occasions while he proceeds to break the Fourth Wall and a bunch of other things along the way.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – From George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” to countless other songs with so much personality going on, Best choice of soundtrack in regards to comedy and drama since “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The Opening Credits – The Opening Credits lampoon every superhero film, but espicially the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Menverse by having examples of people as the villain being “A British Villain” the director being “An Overpaid Tool” the producers being “Asshats” and the writers being “The True Heroes of this Picture.” It’s gold all the way through and the best use of opening credits.

The References – Deadpool references not wanting to be in a green CGI suit (“Green Lantern) there is a Deadpool” action figure from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (and never in a good context, only to mock) as well as countless other things…from a fight on a dead Helocarrier and Bob being a member of Hydra technically. The show lets loose on all the things it draws inspiration from and lets Deadpool do his take-down from above the Fourth Wall.

Breaking the Fourth Wall – This happens throughout the film as Deadpool talks directly to the audience as he does in the comics. He’s comic relief and more which gives him the freedom to be the storyteller on occasion (this film as an example) which plays up the comedy but still keeps the heart as at the end of the day Deadpool is Wade Wilson.

The Characters – The X-Men cameos are awesome, the main leads are great and the only weak characters a few support characters and the villain…keeping up the the possibly purposeful theme of Marvel having a villain problem, as the story isn’t about them.

Blind Al – Is Deadpool’s roommate and has quite a history as she used to a crack addict and well…lives with Deadpool. She doesn’t put up with his crap though and is blunt to him on multiple occasions which he rewards with a cure for blindness and crack before he goes to his final fight. Leslie Uggams is fantastic.

Colossus – This dude is sincere and wonderful and wants Deadpool to be a good guy and X-Men. His interactions with him are gold as he preaches what it means to be a hero only to have Deadpool continue to walk all over him. He proves himself amazing on countless occasions though as Deadpool can’t hurt him at all and he manages to take out one of the two big bads. Stefan Kapicic did a great job.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead – This character is wonderful and does a good job at not letting Deadpool get under her skin. She even has a grudging respect for the guy by the end because he is honest in his crazy. Brianna Hildebrand is fantastic and really shines in the final battle as she saves Colossus and Deadpool a few times.

Vanessa – Morena Baccarine is awesome as Deadpool’s partner. She needs to be saved at one point but she shows herself to be the mature crazy one throughout the film and helps takeout the big bad. She is clearly one of the folks to come out of “Firefly” clearly making her own path in this genre and owning it as she is amazing “Gotham” and I want to see more Vanessa here. She accepts Deadpool (but is honest about the period she’ll need to accept how his body has been warped) but together they move on. They are both all about sex too as she was a hooker and their time montage is them having sex over a long time through many holidays.

Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds was perfect for this role and I’m glad he produced this. After the atrocity of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” it is great seeing that he knows and loves sthis character and was able to put him so perfectly on the screen. From his breaking of the fourth wall, to his tragic backstory, to his growing up while still being insane and unstable…Deadpool is Deadpool, truly do more research on the guy as there is so much you will discover. I could write an essay on the character. This movie captures him so well and gives him all the arc he needs and lets him tell his story.

The Ending Credits – We get an animated Deadpool playing on the saxophone, making a unicorn jackoff and countless other imagse. It is cute, raunchy and adorable…it’s Deadpool.

The After Credits Scene – Deadpool asks the audience why they are still around but later tells us that Cable will be in the next “Deadpool” film and that he’s really cool before asking us to go again. This entire time he’s in his mask and wearing a pajama robes.

Okay: The Villains – They are both British or Britishesque with one whose name (Francis but trying to get people to call him “Ajax” being a ongoing joke) are okay but not all that memorable…it is a Deadpool film so there is that, but I got the MCU problem even though Fox isn’t a part of the MCU. I would have liked more done with the villains.

  This film is probably going to make my Top 5 at the end of the year. Rarely has a film made me laugh as much as this one did. This is a film that is worth checking out if you are okay with sex and violence (don’t take your kids to see this film if they are young), “Deadpool” knows it’s audience and is a brilliant satire that manages to have a beautiful love story be the core arc of the film. I cared about Wade and Vanessa and hope that wherever their future goes that they can continue to grow together in their crazy amazingness.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

Galaxy Quest (1999): A Comedy that Celebrates Sci. Fi. and Nerd Culture

Galaxy Quest poster

   “Galaxy Quest” is one of the greatest honoring of sci. fi. and nerd culture to come out of cinema. It works because it’s characters are mostly fully fleshed out and the situations are comedic without doing away with tension, and the main cast is a lot of fun. As someone who is a huge Trekkie you can see the inspiration drawn from “Star Trek” in the characters and situations the characters are in, as well as the sci. fi. convention where a lot of the story takes place. These are just some of the elements I really enjoyed about the film, I’ll get into more depth later.

    The film was directed by Dean Parisot and written by David Howard and Robert Gordon while being produced by Mark Johnson and Charles Newirth.

     The story is about a cast of a once famous sci. fi. television show called “Galaxy Quest.” They soon find themselves in over their head when Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) the Commander on the show makes a deal that they will help a group of aliens called the Thermians who are being hunted to an extinction by an evil alien warlord called Sarris.

The Pros: The Convention – The convention felt like many of the ones I’d been to as a child and do hope to visit again. There is an excitement and celebration of characters and story that make a great convention great. The ending entrance into the largest convention was awesome too.

Brandon – Is the convention goer who cosplays being a captain in the “Galaxy Quest” universe. He and his friends know the ins and outs of all the missions and episodes which leads to him helping the Commander through the situations he is under.

The Missions – Take place after the crew have been taken in by the Thermians. From getting another Sphere, to repairing the ship and using the mines in the minefield against Sarris. Most of the crew get to use their skills to their greatest ability.

The Thermians – The Thermians are a naive octopus like people who can give themselves the illusion of human form. They have

Mathesar – Mathesar is the Thermian leader and is a kind and good officer. He rises to the challenge and defends himself (his species is a peaceful one) showing how they’ve grown beyond that and can defend themselves when they need to.

The Crew – The crew is largely fantastic and has arcs that are greater than themselves. Alan Rickman (R.I.P.) as Dr. Lazarus is my favorite of them.

Guy Fleegman – Sam Rocwell is great as the character was a redshirt (side crew who dies on an away mission, there are many throughout “Star Trek” and other sci. fi. shows). Luckily he is able to subvert this trope and his awareness helps save them and he ends up becoming the security chief on the rebooted show. His story is awesome.

Tommy Webber / Lt. Laredo – Mitchell plays the Wesley Crusher wiz kid who didn’t get scarred by being on the show. He’s pretty down to Earth as a character and we see him get involved with helping where he can as well as learning how to actually fly the ship properly so that they can defeat Sarris.

Fred Kwan / Tech. St. Chen -Tony Shalhoub is awesome! He is the only character who is fine when meeting the Thermians and ends up hooking up with one of them. For him the strange is normal and it leads to some great interactions as he takes over as Engineer on the ship without a second thought while the rest of the crew is panicking and torn between their roles as actors versus those on the show.

Jason Nesmith / Commander Taggart – Nesmith is a Shatner type narcissist whose arc involves him getting pride in his work and not looking down on himself as well as appreciating his crew. He goes from only caring about being the star to knowing that they only survived because of the roles all his crewmembers played. Allen does alright.

Alexander Dane / Dr. Lazarus – Rickman does amazing as the actor who was into drama before his role as Dr. Lazarus ruined his career. His arc is making peace with the fact that people see him this way (as Nimoy had to do with Spock) and when he sees his famous quote bring hope to people fights for them and helps the Thermians rise up against their enemies. He mellows out a lot by the end too as before he is really wound up and anxious at the conventions and when he’s with the cast.

Celebrating Science Fiction – This film celebrates sci. fi. from beginning to end. From “Galaxy Quest” having a rich lore and people who celebrate it’s fandom…the the actual lore of the Thermians taking inspiration from the show.

Celebrating the Fans – The film also celebrates the fans. Brandon saves the crew with his friends as it is their knowledge of past episodes that helps them rescue the Thermians and stop Sarris. At the end Nesmith thanks them all as well and in the end they what they wanted…a rebooted “Galaxy Quest.”

Okay: Gwen DeMarco / Lt. Madison – She is sadly sidelined and her arc is her love story with Nesmith. On the show she just says what the computer says and is sexed up and it’s done even more-so in the reboot. This is an issue with television that could have been addressed but never is. Everything she does is in Nesmith’s shadow versus the other crewmembers who each get their own individual chance to shine.

Cons: Sarris – He’s a one-dimensional baddy who tortures for the sake of torture and doesn’t even seem to conquer since he only has one ship. This character had no motivations and even though he had a cool insect like design, that does not make a compelling villain.

    This is a solidly good comedy outing that pays tribute to science fiction while celebrating some of the best aspects of it and the passion that has come to surround the shows. It also is one of Alan Rickman’s greatest performances and my friends and I watched this show to honor him. This is a show that manages to work both as a comedy, a sci. fi. show and even on some level a drama with the only cons being the villain and how Sigourney Weaver’s character. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this film.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Escape From New York (1981): Trapped in the Machine

Escape From New York

    “Escape from New York” and “Escape from L.A.” were stories I was only really familiar with through the game series that they helped inspire. Solid Snake was drawn from the ex-soldier and protagonist of this series Snake Plissken. Both of them are isolated soldiers forced into situations of their control and must race against time to complete the mission and save themselves. The biggest difference is the “Metal Gear” series is much more sci. fi. based while the “Escape” series is more dystopian and apocalyptic. Suffice to say I really enjoyed “Escape from New York,” and consider it a favorite film even though it does have some obvious problems that I will go into.

       John Carpenter wrote and directed the film while it was co-wrote by Nick Castle and produced by Larry J. Franco and Debra Hill.

   The story begins in 1988 when there is a 400% increase in crime leading to the United States turning Manhattan Island into a high security prison. It is in 1997 and Air Force One get’s hijacked and crashed into the prison that is Manhattan forcing the New York Police Force to send in Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to rescue the President and save the tape that is needed for the Peace Summit with the Soviet Union and China. From here Snake is in a race against time as he is infected with capsules that will kill him in 22 hours unless they are removed.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of society falling apart leading to a tyrannical government rising in the United States is fascinating, especially as we see how the disregard for life of those who aren’t among the privileged has decreased drastically. Whether it is Snake having the capsules put into him that give him a death sentence unless he completes his mission or all the rules that you see the moment you come in, as well as the fact that all those entering Manhattan Island have the choice to commit suicide rather than going to Prison. The disregard for life it at it’s height.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful. It is dark and shadowed and captures the feel of being trapped extremely well. Everything is hidden, which sets up how we don’t see what happened to the President until much later in the story and we don’t meet the Duke of New York until later in the story either. Dean Cundey and Jim Lucas did a great job.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is very 80s and it works. There is a tense synth feel that pervades the film which captures that this is supposed to be a future really well. John Carpenter and Alan Howarth did a great job.

The Action – The action is extremely solid. Whether it is Snake having to fight against his dying body and different crooks or facing off against the Slag in a bat fight in the Duke of New York’s arena or finally racing across a mined bridge being chased by the Duke…every action scene moves the plot forward and establishes the strength and guile of our hero or the motivation of those around him.

 Maggie – Maggie is the girlfriend of Brain who was once Snake’s partner but ran away. She comes to Brain’s defense but also sees the bigger picture too as she and Brain help save the President from the Duke. This leads to the Brain eventually dying and her using the last of her energy to try and kill the Duke. She was a great character and gave us a picture of someone making it in Manhattan. Adrienne Barbeau did great.

Brain – Harry Dean Stanton is great as the double crosser who eventually comes to stand by his friend. He’s smart and that is what keeps him alive as we see him outsmart both Snake and the Duke on multiple occasions and in doing so keep his head. He does eventually die on the bridge and can’t make it out but he makes possible Snake and the President’s escape, saving Manhattan from being bombed by the mainland.

Duke of New York – Isaac Hayes (Chef from “South Park”) is a great villain. He is a guy who is confident who sees himself as number one. He’s rose through the ranks of the prison to the point that he owns it now and just wants to get revenge on the world that put him there. He nearly succeeds too, only being stopped by Brain and Maggie when they change sides and help Snake free the President.

Snake Plissken – Snake is a bitter ex-convict who also served in the army at one point. Among the people he is seen as a bit of a folk hero and most people in Manhattan eventually recognize him. He’s ruthless but has a good heart as we see him go from threatening Brain and Maggie to trying to use all he can to help them escape. He’s pretty anti-authority too and we see him give cabbie’s tape to the President, embarrassing him on live television before China and the USSR while Snake himself destroys the tape that the government was going to use. His story is resisting the machine even as he is forced to be a part of it. Kurt Russell does a great job.

Okay: Bob Hauk – He is the guy who injects Snake with the capsules forcing him to race against time. He believes in Snake and has a respect for him as at the end he asks Snake if he’d like to join his team.

The Cons: The President – He’s a tool and wasn’t all that memorable. He wasn’t bad but he wasn’t written with much depth as we see him dismiss the lives that were laid down so he could escape and him cringing everytime he is threatened.

Romero – Romero just looks crazy but we never get why the Duke made him his second in command. Because of this he is just kind of there.

   This story has great world building, but I didn’t feel as attached to the characters as I did in “Escape from L.A.” I think a big reason for this is a lot of what the story does is world building and tone setting. It is “Alien” to “Aliens” and in both cases in order to experience the world we don’t have the time to really grow attached to a lot of the characters. It is still a film I’d recommend to anyone who loves a good dystopian or apocalyptic story and it sets up “Escape from L,A” and the story beats “Escape from L.A.” will use really well.

Final Score: 9 / 10

“Rick and Morty” Season 1 Retrospect – Insane and Dark Sci. Fi. Fun

Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind

    “Rick and Morty” is a show I highly recommend and after I finished Season 1 I started watching Season 2 so there will be more reviews later on in this amazing animated dark comedy sci. fi. The characters have depth and get developed over time and no matter how dark the show goes, it never stops having fun. Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon created a wonderful show and I’ll go into more depth on what I enjoyed about Season 1 and where it fell short.

The Pros: The Comedy – The comedy is hilarious! There are some brilliant satires in episodes (“Lawnmower Dog” satirizing both “Planet of the Apes,” “Inception” and “Friday the 13th.” As well as countless others. The comedy is both random but also has some great setups as well as character cons end up leading to some pretty good payoff later in relationship to other characters and the surrounding environment.

The Universe – The Universe is rich! From alternate dimensions and times, The Council of Ricks, Bird Person, the Meeseeks and the countless aliens and governments Rick comes into conflict with throughout his anti-authority adventures.

The Characters – The characters are wonderful and memorable and the family and their relationships develop over time in relationship to Rick and Morty who are the characters who primarily drive the plot.

Mr. Meeseeks – Mr. Meeseeks are created to solve problems and after they stop existing. Their entire existence is pain and when they try and help Jerry improve his golf game they come to see it as impossible and end up taking hostages and growing desperate in a stark contrast to their initial kind and supportive nature. I really hope we see these guys again.

Jerry – Jerry is an idiot and his arc is really becoming comfortable in the fact he is not smart and becoming comfortable in that as well as his role as a father and the fact that his wife loves him even though they clash a lot and are in a failing marriage. He’s an idiot but he’s sympathetic when he isn’t arrogant.

Beth – Beth is the high achiever and a staunch defender of her dad. She is the one helping Jerry develop into a better person and dealing with her perfectionist nature and learning to let go. She hasn’t gotten there yet but throughout the show we see the strange, extreme circumstances Rick’s or Jerry’s actions bring about bring her closer to that place.

Summer – Summer is Morty’s sister and her arc is dealing with the fact that she was a mistake and learning to accept that life is chaotic, strange and hard and at the end you die. This ends up making her a great Rick companion as Morty learned this over the course of the series too. She also doesn’t have the moral core Morty has either, best shown in “Ricksy Business.”

Rick – Rick is a sociopathic mad scientist whose moral core is Morty, his grandson and travel companion. Rick learns to care about Morty and the family over the course of the season and we see him see those small relationships and appreciate them in the overwhelming abyss that his the rest of reality. He’s also an anti-authority rebel which makes his relationships with alien governments entertaining.

Morty – Morty is like Marty to Rick’s Doc Brown and is the moral core of the show as he helps Rick care about people and life even as Morty goes through that same process of learning himself when his selfishness destroys the reality he starts out in. It is this arc that gives him a bleak view of existence but improves his relationship with Rick and his family. He is pretty mature at the end though he still has his wide eyed idealism that defines the character, even given all he’s been through.

Rick and the 4th Wall – Rick breaks the 4th Wall on multiple occasions and talks directly the audience telling them to watch next week or buy a product. It is hilarious and fits into the fact that Rick is aware of everything and that is why he is crazy and nuts.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger Ending – In “Ricksy Business” Rick freezes time so they can clean the house after the party and that is where it ends with them still cleaning. There isn’t a complete arc for this reason in regards to Rick and Beth in relationship to Rick as they were in conflict with him from the very first episode.

  For a show that is all about subtle arcs and callbacks ending the show on a cliffhanger ended up being the only con. It achieved it’s purpose as it made me watch on to see what happened but it did detract from the overall narrative. It is strong though and easily one of the best animated series currently on television. I laughed through most of it and the only episode that was weak was the one where they had gender stereotypes. The rest were at least 8’s and there were many that were high 9’s. My favorite episodes were “Lawnmower Dog,” “Meeseeks and Destroy” and “Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind.”

Final Score: 9.5 / 10.