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

Image result for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

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

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

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

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cons:

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

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

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Ready Player One (2018): When the Film is Better Than the Book

It has been some time since I’ve watched a Steven Spielberg film. After seeing this film, I really should change that. He really is one of the best living directors today, as this is a film that could have been a cringe-worthy mess. First, I was a fan of the book, even though this film gets away from the book in some ways it still keeps the core spirit of the book. This is a film that celebrates video games and nostalgia while doing it well, even though the main characters are flat. My non-spoiler thoughts are: if you liked the book, you will probably enjoy this film too.

The film was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (the author of the book).

The story takes place in the dystopian future of 2045. The world has fallen apart and everyone lives in the Oasis, a virtual reality world created by Halliday where you can be anyone and do anything. Wade Watts is the main protagonist who is trying to find the 3 Easter Eggs that Halliday put in the game as a way of passing on ownership after his death. From here Watts and his friends must find the keys and beat the game before the evil corporation, Innovative Online Industries (IOI), lead by Nolan Sorrento.

The Pros:

The Dystopian Reality – The dystopian reality of the world outside of the Oasis is a tragic place. You have debt slaves to IOI, cars and houses stacked on each other in the Stacks, a militarized police force and drones everywhere. I wanted to learn more about this world and spend more time there as the human connections we see are made primarily in the Oasis. For me, one of my favorite parts was seeing the characters outside of the game working together, having to depend on their brains rather than how awesome they were in the game. I wanted more of this and to hear more of their stories.

The Oasis – The Oasis is really cool. This is a VR world where you can make yourself into any avatar you want. You can also build robots, tanks, cars, etc. It is a huge modding community where you can do PVP (Player versus Player) and PVE (Player versus Enemies [AI]) combat. It is the endless possibilities of imagination and gaming combined. I really hope we can make something like it, someday.

i-R0K the Mercenary – i-R0K is the mercenary Sorrento, and his evil corporation IOI, uses to hunt our heroes. He is a funny guy, as he is only in it for the loot. He’s a huge threat, and also, very human as he talks about how bad his back is and needing physical therapy. He has more character than our heroes, and I would watch a movie just about him.

The Tone – The tone is one of wonder and imagination intermixed with sorrow and desperation. Spielberg owns the tone, and it pervades the film giving weight to everything that happens and the actions our characters take.

Okay:

Flat Heroes – Wade is an orphan who lives in the stacks who comes off as a bit one-dimensional, as he only lives for the game and has no real defining character traits. Samantha is the love interest who thinks she’s ugly because she has a birthmark on her face, and her dad is enslaved by IOI. The Japanese Brothers are an older and younger brother duo. The younger brother is an 11 year old who doesn’t like people thinking he’s young, as he fears they’d mock him in the Oasis. Helen is an African-American woman who plays a troll-like, tough character, called Aech. These characters aren’t bad… it’s just that there isn’t more to them beyond the descriptions I gave. They are all heroes who do the right thing, always, and have no inner conflict or aims. This was a missed opportunity. They are this way in the book, but we do get into Wade’s head which makes him more compelling. These characters work within the story, but they really deserved much better development.

Idealization versus Reality – Oasis is a giant gaming community, so where are or what happened to all the toxic trolls? The racists? The sexists? As far as we know there isn’t a moderator who kicks players out, so how did this reality become perfect? This is where the stories fantasy element really came out. The film could have critiqued itself, or shown us how to get to the ideal reality the Oasis community seems to be.

The Cons:

The Villain and Predictability – Sorrento is a cliched. corrupt businessman. one-dimensional villain. He’s just greedy and selfish, having no greater depth. He was that way in the book too, which is a shame as he knows Halliday and it could have been Halliday who brought out his worst self. He’s entertaining, but there is nothing there. He is flatter than our heroes, and their presentations aren’t great.

Overdependence on Nostalgia – The Oasis is full of references, and it is fine up to a degree, but in a game you’d expect more original content. Why is everyone so focused on creating things that already exist rather than things that don’t exist. Some moments of nostalgia are cool, like the T.Rex  and King Kong in the race at the beginning, but the old arcade game at the end felt unneeded and could have been adapted into a better trial.

This was a film that missed opportunities to critique the culture of gaming, and nostalgia found in the modern world (they could have shown how we got past toxic troll culture, etc.). The flatness of the heroes and  the villain didn’t help the film… but the world, the world carried it for me. This is a good film that could have been great if it had dared to observe and critique itself. Once more, if you loved the book or love Spielberg, you will enjoy this film.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

 

Star Trek Beyond (2016): The Reboot Series Finally Captures Classic “Star Trek”

Star Trek Beyond

    “Star Trek Beyond,” is a film that best captures the spirit of the Star Trek Franchise than probably “The Undiscovered Country.” That film has a better story and is one of my all time favorite Star Trek Films but this film is still really good and I enjoyed it a lot more than “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which at the end of the day depended way too much on conspiracy and fan service rather than showing the spirit and cost of adventure the way this film does. Non-spoiler thoughts…this film has great action, comedy and characters and is well worth your time to see it on the big screen.

    “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by Justin Lin, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk.

     The story takes place 3 years into the 5 year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself at a crossroads with the possibility of promotion and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is pulled back into Vulcan after a major death.  They and the crew are put to the test though when they are lead into a trap and must face Krall (Idris Elba) who destroys their ship, forcing them to adapt to the planet and keep him from getting the superweapon he seeks.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – This movie captures the wonder of the World of Star Trek. We get the Utopia of Yorktown, the horrors of war via Krall and tons of alien species and first contact opportunities.

Yorktown – Yorktown is a like a giant snowglobe in space and looks like how I always imagined a advanced space station actually looking (in the tv shows they never were able to capture it like it is on film, they are just stations, this is a city). I loved this area and I like that we spent time here to humanize our crew and see how the Federation has achieved Utopia.

The Writing – Minus the writing of Krall, the writing is a major pro. Every character is given things to do, characters change and aren’t just rehashing the same story (Kirk, Spock and Uhura had the same story twice in the last two reboot films). Simon Pegg being a Trekkie and one of the writers is one reason I think why this worked so much.

Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and stunning and captures the old look of the show while modernizing it for the screen. It feels dreamlike and from it the adventure of this great series.

The Comedy – The comedy is gold, especially anything with Jaylah and Scotty and McCoy and Spock. The dialogue is quick and witty and always moves the action forward.

Use of Ensemble Cast – The cast all has things to do and it keeps the story strong! Uhura and Sulu are protecting the hostages and the device, Chekov is with Kirk, McCoy is Spock and Scotty is with Jaylah. Each of them are working to find one another and defeat Krall and it leads to great comedic and dramatic moments.

The Cast – The cast is the strongest part of this film, these actors have come to inhabit these characters.

Chekov – R. I. P. Anton Yelchin…you really inhabited this role. This is a film where Chekov is with Kirk for a lot of it and later teams up with Scotty since he knows tech. almost as well. We see him be the hero and the problem solver and his relationship with Kirk is pretty great. You’ll be missed Anton…

Sulu – John Cho is fantastic as Sulu and in this we get to meet his husband and daughter at Yorktown and from there see the reason why he is fighting so hard to defend it. In this he get to see him fly the Franklin, fight with the Enterprise until Krall’s drones destroy it. It is great seeing him and Uhura team up.

Uhura – Uhura is the primary protector of the hostages and the device that Krall is trying to get. She only loses when Krall threatens a crew member forcing the crewman to reveal her hand and where she’s kid the device. Uhura is ready to die to protect it though. We also see that her and Spock still have a great relationship even though they may or may not have broken up. Zoe Saldana is fantastic.

Scotty – Simon Pegg is really great in the role of Scotty and in this we see him as the major problem solver, whether it is fixing the Franklin, finding the crew and Krall or working with Jaylah on traps.

McCoy – Karl Urban really owns the role of McCoy and in this we get to see his friendship with Spock grow as they are stuck together for most of the film. It is great seeing their dynamic as McCoy’s cynical optimism is contrasted beautifully with Spock’s cold clear logic and duty driven decisions. This eventually leads to them taking on Krall by kidnapping one of the drone ships since Spock needs someone to monitor his injury he received when the Enterprise was destroyed and McCoy is the only one who knows about it.

Spock – Spock is faced with a decision in this…to stay with the crew or to return to Vulcan to help create more Vulcans. Ambassador Spock has died and no Vulcan is once more lacking limited leaders and there still aren’t very many of them. Over the course of the film he decides to stay for the crew though, not because of future Spock and I really like that. He discovers that it is out on the frontier he can protect Vulcan best and the realization that the entire crew is his family now and will be (he sees a picture of the crew when they are older that Ambassador Spock was keeping).

Kirk – Kirk like Spock is faced with a decision to stay or get a promotion and go as when we first meet him his life on the ship has become mundane and he expresses how trapped everyone feels out in space for so long. It is powerful as he is really talking about himself. Krall reminds him of why he is out there too and even though he loses the Enterprise he decides to stay to Captain and because the Captain of the newly built Enterprise-A we see being built at the end of the film.

Jaylah -Sofia Boutella is awesome as Jaylah and I hope she becomes part of the main crew. She is the one who helps them all team up as her home is Krall’s old Federation ship the Franklin. It is thanks to her and Scotty that they get it running and are able to use it as a base to free the hostages and to confront Krall and his drone forces. She also has a somewhat romantic thing with Scotty and is an orphan whose been fighting Krall all her life. Suffice to say she is awesome.

The Idea of Krall – The idea of Krall as a former Space Marine turned alien warlord is cool. Peace doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who gain honor from combat and live from it (one reason the Federation fights the Klingons every generation even after the treaties). There was so much more that could have been done with this idea if he had just been fleshed out more as a character.

Remembering the Dead – R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Both of them were given time to be remembered as Spock remembered Ambassador Spock and the final scene was fade to black with “For Anton” in memory of Anton Yelchin. The two of them were amazing and have left a legacy on this universe and the world.

Okay: Krall/Balthazar Edison – Idris Elba is good at humanizing this ex-marine turned alien Warlord and his acting is great, it is just the writing for Krall is only so-so so I’m putting him at okay. We never get explanations of why he turned into an alien or how using people turned him back into a person.

The Cons: Villain plan – The villain plan is to destroy Yorktown, which if Krall want the Federation at war, that isn’t going to help…since there is no way could escape, it was do the most damage and die…which I expected more from a man who had lived hundreds of years. He should have had a better plan.

How did Balthazar become Krall and Revert Back? – Balthazar was a M.A.C.O. (Pre-Federation Marine) who is maid captain after the Xindi and Romulan wars and finds himself abandoned on the planet. Something happens that causes him to become the alien Krall and he is using people to turn back into a person. This is never explained.

Pacing – The pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes everything is going too fast and we have no time to really soak in what our characters are going through, and other times we linger too long. This is most true at the beginning but by about a third of the way through the film this isn’t as much of an issue.

   The villain isn’t bad but he is where most of the holes in the plot are. Sometimes the pacing can be a little jarring, and I was bored at one point because of it…but the payoff when they arrive on Krall’s world is fantastic and almost everything after that works. This is a film that reminded me why I’m a Trekkie and I can’t wait to go back and review the other films so I can rate them all against one another. This a film well deserving of it’s place in the Franchise and some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies this summer.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

The World’s End (2013): Alien Invasion Meets “Hangover” Meets the Apocalypse

The World's End

    “The World’s End” is better on a second viewing but is not as good as “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz.” It’s a film that has too many similarities to the party comedies like “Hangover” and comes off weaker because of it, the arcs are also less apparent in many cases which hurts the overall story and there are a few other issues too I’ll get into further in the review, though I do still recommend this film and consider it good. It isn’t bad, I don’t think Wright and Pegg together are capable of creating a bad film.

   Being the 3rd film in The Cornetto Trilogy the film was directed by Edgar Wright and who also co-wrote the film with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

     The film involves Gary King (Simon Pegg) getting his old childhood friends together to finish “The Golden Mile” where they hit up all the pubs in Newton Haven but conflict occurs when all of them have grown up while Gary is still the same Gary and soon they realize the unchanged town is more than it appears to be.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Cinematography – Bill Pope does a wonderful job on the cinematography creating a picture perfect image of the town and later a sci. fi. nightmare when the alien invasion is revealed.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has lots of great rock and is good at capturing the mixed perspective of our drunk protagonists as well as the rising tension as the aliens slowly close in around them. Steven Price did a great job.

The Characters – The main characters are still great, and even a few of the minor characters even if they don’t have the same level of depth and comedy of the minor characters in other films.

Basil – David Bradley is back as the conspiracy theorist and one of the few people who doesn’t get turned into a blank by the network. He does a great job as the clearly mad man who in this instance happens to be right.

Oliver – Oliver is the guy who is all business and whose sister tends to be the but of jokes. Martin Freeman is awkward and does a great job as the one who is mostly doing things out of obligation. When he is turned into a blank (an android) he still keeps his personality as a Realtor after the world ends at the end of the film.

Steven – Paddy Considine plays the one good guy of the group whose arc is finally falling in love and starting a life with Sam as he shows that he is the most mature person of the group. He was a good minor character.

Sam – Rosamund Pike is awesome! In this she is great at setting boundaries with characters and also is able to find happiness and to save the guys when they are living their idiocy of the pub crawl as the Network slowly kills and replaces them with Blanks. She like Steven is one of the few mature characters.

Andy – Andy is Gary’s former best friend and played by Nick Frost. For him it is standing up to Gary and them resolving their issues with one another as Andy becomes the most hardcore drunk once the alien invasion is in full swing and is their biggest threat. In the end he becomes a child again but finds himself as the storyteller and friends again with Gary though he loses Gary after the World and Newton Haven are destroyed leaving an apocalyptic wasteland.

Gary King – Simon Pegg is great as the friend who is an ass and assumes privilege over everyone. His arc is realizing that he really is a mess up and it is at the end of the world that he finds his place in the world as a man fighting for the Blanks who are recreations of his childhood friends as they wander the wasteland together. He also no longer drinks as the end of the world solved his drinking problem. A better film would have been their adventures in the Wasteland not the “Hangover” type Satire that we got.

The Blanks – The Blanks are androids/robots until the end when they come into their own and deal with discrimination from the populace. Them as a sect of the people is wonderful to see and deal with and I wish they had received more development.

The Message – The message is to choose to be free and not conform even if the rest of culture sees you as a loser. To some degree I think this makes sense, at least in the political sense when dealing with fascism and control…but eventually you have to grow up as it seems Gary King does as he is a good survivor after the end.

Okay: The Satire – I never felt the films like “Hangover” were being fully satired, it was almost like celebration at times and the alien invasion story that was “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Day the Earth Stood Still”esque fell apart due to the Network being such a weak villain and idea. The satire was sill there and decent but the fact that it wasn’t as clear as “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” was obvious, also at the end of the day this film was just less funny.

The Cons: The Network – Villain that replaces people with robots blind to it’s will and apparently it part of a larger collective of aliens? The proposal struck me as full of crap and a okay satire of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” where a fascist alien collective wants to raise humanity up but sees they are too ruled by fear. Same deal here with the Network but it replaces those who don’t conform. So glad it left. Poor villain which brought down the script and story.

The Drunk Film Tropes – The guy who doesn’t drink gets drunk, Gary can’t remember anything, drunk man confesses feeling and gets the girl (Steven and Sam) and drunk man becomes a hero (Gary and Andy). These tropes are tired and they weren’t pulled off creatively at all.

   This is the weakest of the Trilogy but is a lot of fun on a second viewing. It is truly a good but not great film and it is not a favorite by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still a good film. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are geniuses at their craft and really, I’d so far recommend anything they’ve worked on and this film is no exception…with it’s flaws and all.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Shaun of the Dead (2004): Subverting the Rom Com, Popular Culture and Zombie Films

Shaun of the Dead

      “Shaun of the Dead” is a film that does a great job satirizing modern society as well as managing to subvert some of the Rom Com tropes as Shaun is a character who most of the time manages to makes situations worse by trying to do right by his relationships. The weakest part of the film is Ed (Nick Frost) who seems to function as one big joke and in a way wasn’t needed for Shaun’s story to be told.

       The film was directed by Edgar Wright who wrote it with Simon Pegg and produced by Nira Park.

      The story involves Shaun (Nick Frost) and Ed (Nick Frost) missing the Zombie apocalypse until it is in their home forcing Shaun to reconcile with his family and ex named Liz (Kate Ashfield) as he becomes the leader of the group and plans to get them to the pub called the Winchester, believing it to be the only safe place in the city.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful (as is the editing) as the soundtrack is beautifully put into the film to reflect the characters and situations. For example when David is working the lights it is like a concert with the zombies moving to the lights and music while Liz and Shaun fight to Queen. David M. Dunlap did a great job.

The Action – The action is great in this and given that these are slow walkers that says something…the Zombies actually manage to be threatening and a force even if most of the problems that happen are caused by Shaun and his own stupidity and the stupidity of his party.

The Characters – The characters are tropes in this but they get enough development that they feel real. I know people like these characters so it manages to actually be compelling in regards to what happens to them.

Pete – Pete is a dick but he also tries to be as open and supportive as he can even though Ed is giving nothing to rent and their life and he only turns on Shaun and Ed after he is bitten and can’t get any sleep because they are drunk and mixing records as Liz had just dumped Shaun that day.

Philip – Bill Nighy plays Shaun’s step-dad who was always hard on him but finally admits he’s loved him all along before he turns. He is a great character as we we gruff man not used to showing feelings finally opening up at the end and in turn revealing Shaun’s tender side too. It was great seeing him again in this too as before I’d only seen him as Davy Jones in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” Trilogy.

Barbara – Penelope Wilton (the Prime Minister from “Doctor Who”) is great in this as the mom who doesn’t want to intrude upon Shaun’s life. She is super sweet and when she dies you feel it as she was someone doing the best she could and living the theme of survival.

David and Dianne – Dianne is an out of work actress but comes up with the brilliant idea of them pretending to be zombies to get into the Winchester. David was always crushing on Liz and Dianne helped him get over it, him ignoring and denying that hurts her a lot and she goes to protect him when he is being devoured alive by zombies leading to her implied death too.

Yvonne and her Party – Yvonne is the one who seeks out the British Army and saves Liz and Shaun who are the only ones in their party who survive the apocalypse. She is always on it and is the only one with a clear head in all the events that go down. Her boyfriend is also played by Martin Freeman and the characters in her party mirror Shaun’s party. The romantic relationship – Martin and Liz as an example.

Subverting the Rom Com – In the Rom Com the man child (Shaun) usually grows up and redeems himself showing that he is a good guy. In this he is the same guy after he just now knows he courageous and has dealt with all his repressed feelings. When he is the leader he isn’t very good at it and he brought them to the Winchester which was an open pub surrounded by Zombies…nothing he does really helps and his friend

We are the Zombies – The way this is shown best is Shaun in his retail job where everyone is repeating the same phrases again and again, his morning routine as the apocalypse unfolds and him not noticing until a zombie is in his home and the television showing the crap reality television shows before and after the apocalypse and how they were essentially still the same.

Okay: Ed – I couldn’t stand this character, which might have been part of the point. He is selfish, lazy and doesn’t do anything for anyone without first measuring how it benefits himself. I think he was meant to be a joke though as he is played as normal after he turns at the end, showing he was a Zombie in a way, all along.

I would actually rate “Hot Fuzz” higher in the Cornetto Trilogy at this point as I found Nick Frost’s Danny a much more compelling character than Ed (who exists in every film of this nature usually played by Seth Rogen or a Sandler actor) and though I consider this film a favorite and found the overall satire hilarious, “Hot Fuzz” had better payoff with the jokes and dialogue. Still, this is one of the best satires, horrors and comedies and without a doubt my favorite zombie film I have ever watched.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Hot Fuzz (2007): A Brilliant Satire of Cop Films with a Compelling Story

Hot Fuzz

      “Hot Fuzz” is amazing, though it is in steep competition to be the best film in Pegg’s and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. This is a film that captures the absurdity of both television and film cop dramas, while also shining a light and critiquing small town and city culture at the same time…while giving our stars character arcs! There is a lot that is needed for a comedy to work, and this film manages to achieve that.

     The film was directed by Edgar Wright who also wrote it with Simon Pegg while being produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

SPOILERS ahead

      The story involves Sgt, Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) the best cop in London being sent to the village of Sandford since his stats are making his fellow cops look bad on the force. In Sandford he soon learns all is not as it appears to be as mysterious deaths continue to pop around town accompanied by hooded figures running from the scenes of the crimes. He must work with the Police Chief in Sandford’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) in order to solve the case and the dark side of the village.

The Pros: The London Police Authorities – Martin Freeman appears as Nick Angel’s higher up as do two other actors but Freeman was the most memorable as the one trying to make the demotion look like a promotion. By the time the highest one is reached he tells Angel that he being sent away because he is too good and makes them all look bad. It’s a really hilarious joke and critique of the City.

The Cinematography – Jess Hall did a fantastic job on the cinematography. The film is polished and looks like a modern day cop drama as it emphasizes eyes, guns and loss whenever someone gets shot. It’s really good work and we see the use of darkness used to build tension.

The Writing – The writing is hilarious. Wright and Pegg are a great pair and know their comedy well, and not just comedy…they give their characters arc. Nick Angel and Danny Butterman are not static characters, events and circumstances change them and help them to grow into better people than they were before.

Callback Jokes – The callback jokes are wonderful! At one point they run into an old man named Webler (played by David Bradley) who has a whole bunch of guns and a water mine which doesn’t work…Nick and Danny later use the guns to attack the NWA and the mine is used to kill the last one who tries to kill Nick at the end before the mine destroys the Station.

The Satire – The Satire is brilliant! From the NWA being so concerned with appearances that they murder for it, Danny being obsessed with cop films and doing events from said films (“Point Break” and “Bad Boys” as an example) and Angel rejecting it not realizing he is the trope before he finally embraces at the end, and with it all the paperwork.

Sandford – Sandford is an idyllic small town, it is mostly farms with a few stores and we see that everyone knows everyone. All the small town tropes exist here, from the village gossip, the crappy journalist and the overbearing Police Chief in a town obsessed with conformity.

Simon Skinner – Timothy Dalton does a good job as the CEO of the convenience store who is set up to be the big bad but is only one of the many members of the NWA responsible for the murders. He is good at being creepy and overbearing to everyone around him as he only speaks in threats.

The Sandford Police Force – The Sandford Police Force is wonderful, Olivia Colman plays the only woman on the police force and there are two mustached guys and one nervous guy who does whatever Nick says but is also a good strategist…they all break and embrace the tropes they were written into leading to a great faceoff in Skinner’s store at the end.

Frank Butterman – Jim Broadbent is wonderful as the likable but for appearance of useless Police Commissioner who is all about village appearances. He is a good antagonist as we see he is the way he is after his wife killed herself since she was so obsessed with winning the competition. He is good at leading Nick Angel on false leads and he is the unspoken leader of the NWA.

PC Danny Butterman – Danny’s arc is realizing how serious it is to be a cop and dealing with the truth of his father…after he does he is able to turn the police force against his dad and help take out the NWA with Nick as we see that they now compliment each other as Danny’s socialness is what helps Nick Angel get outside of his obsession with the job as Nick’s obsession rubs off on Danny and helps Danny to become a hero and good cop.

Sgt. Nick Angel – Nick is man obsessed with being the best cop to the point that he lost his relationship and is alone with his plant. It takes Danny (who he arrests when he first arrives in Sandford) slowly getting him out of his shell and helping him open up that we see him mellow out and become not just a good cop in doing the right things to catch the bad guys, but also in how he treats others…this arc is completed in him choosing to stay in Sandford at the end, rather than returning to London when Freeman’s character offers him the chance (since things have gotten so bad after him leaving). Simon Pegg is brilliant and the best part of the film.

Okay/Cons – Pacing – There are a few moments where the film drags, this is partially due to the film being very quick in it’s action. This is the only real con outside of a plot hole I’ll list in the next one.

The Cons: Where are the Families of the Missing People – The Neighborhood Watch Alliance and Associates (NWA) kills anyone who makes the town look bad (the hoodies, the kids who were drinking in the pub) so that they continue to win town of the year…where were the families of the people killed? My theory was that they were living in fear of the NWA but we never have conformation of this, so that was a small thing that bothered me in the film.

   This might be my film in the Cornetto Trilogy, though “Shaun of the Dead” is hard to beat and may still be better. Regardless, this is a film I’d highly recommend. If you like a great satire, comedy and film that celebrates Cop Dramas while at the same time celebrating aspects of them and the tropes they invented, you will like this film. It’s one of my favorites and one I will no doubt watch again in the future.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episode 20 – “Bounty” – The Good in Ventress

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  “Bounty” continues Ventress’s story though is a stand alone episode as well as we are introduced to a free Boba Fett and his band of Bounty Hunters who are doing a job for a corrupt warlord. It is a good episode in how it further humanizes Ventress and shows the ways she is changing after the loss of her people.

    The episode was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Katie Lucas.

    The story involves Ventress being pulled onto Boba’s team after she kills one of his men. From here they must protect cargo for a warlord, but thing soon get complicated when they find out the cargo is a member of the species that is attempting to free the cargo.

The Pros: The Job – A high speed train being chased by aliens below a planet’s surface while protecting special cargo sounds just awesome! The job is pulled off really well too as the aliens who are attacking have the advantage of numbers even though individually the Bounty Hunters are stronger.

The Bounty Hunters – Bossk continues to kick but and be Boba’s protector, C-21 Highsinger saves the cargo on multiple occasions, Denger is palyed by Simon Pegg who gives a lot of life to the character and Razzi fights with metallic leaves and becomes Ventress’s friend. Boba Fett is also pretty cool this episode and proves why he is the best as he beats every enemy he faces on the train.

Ventress – Ventress goes her own way and saves the cargo, conning the warlord but still gives the Bounty Hunters all their cut while collecting a small cut from the people whose daughter was kidnapped. She isn’t good but she is better and has found her own path outside of the Nightsisters and the Sith.

The Cons: The Belugans – These guys have no motivation and we don’t know why they kidnapped the humanoid girl as it seemed to serve no purpose in mating since they probably weren’t even genetically compatible. Never believed they were a threat, there tram is cool and that’s about it.

   This was a great but not a favorite episode. The biggest issue I had with it were the Belugans and I felt that Boba could have been more than an arrogant kid (though he was a great fighter this episode). This episode is about Ventress at it’s core and is what is done well. I consider her a favorite in this series after this episode and the one prior.

Final Score: 9 / 10