Black Panther (2018): Seeking Justice in a Broken World

       “Black Panther” is easily one of my Top 5 favorite MCU films. This is a film that expands on the lore of the MCU, has great characters with amazing arcs, some of the best action and villains in any Marvel film. It also explores deeper themes of resistance and sovereignty adding up to a movie that is well worth your time.

The film was directed by Ryan Coogler who co-wrote it with Joe Robert Cole and produced by Kevin Feige.

The story involves T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), after “Captain America: Civil War,” as he takes the mantle as King of Wakanda but suddenly finds his world transformed as an enemy from Wakanda’s past upsets the status quo they’ve known for so long. This forces him and his allies to confront the past and what the choices they make will mean for Wakanda’s future.

SPOILERS Ahead

The Pros:

Wakanda – Wakanda is such a cool country. This is a Afro-Futuristic nation with advanced technology, hidden by a cloaking device that intermixes ancient tradition with tech. Wakandans are ruled by the King and a Tribal Council whose upholding of tradition drives the primary conflict in the shaping of Wakanda’s future. Each tribe differs in ideology, whether it is defending the King, the Border or trade. This world is rich and fully realized, each tribe is distinct and I wanted to know more about their histories in the foundation and development of Wakanda.

The Characters – The characters are definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of this great film, with Boseman once again killing it as T’Challa. Whitiker is fantastic as the Tribal Shaman whose history is intertwined with Wakanda’s past sins. The other minor characters, like the tribal leader W’Kabi, also have intriguing performances as well. In many cases it is these characters prideful choices that drive the conflict that T’Challa must untangle. Below, I’m going to explore some of my favorite characters of the film, as it was who they were that drew me into the story the most.

Okoye – Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, is Wakanda’s General and she owns this role. Not only does she one of the major focuses is some breathtaking actions scenes every action scenes, we see how important her role is for her as at one point following tradition has her on the opposite side of some of our heroes. She serves the Crown and Wakanda, and that is a complicated dance when T’Challa is believed dead and the sociopath Killmonger is now King of Wakanda. I can’t wait to see more of her in future films.

Shuri – Shuri is the Princess of Wakanda and T’Challa’s sister. She is one of the most intelligent characters in the MCU, as she is the inventor of the advanced technology of Wakanda, she is very much the Tony Stark of Wakanda.  Like Stark, she doesn’t care about tradition and is far more invested in the relationships around her and the beauty of discovery and invention. She has some great scenes, and like Okoye, she was one of the main reasons to see this film. 

Ulysses Klaue – Andy Serkis has a lot of fun as the weapons merchant who is almost Joker-like in how little he cares about anything. This is a guy who is selfish, and racist, and every reason why Wakanda is isolationist. He is an insane character and his chaotic and manipulative nature leads to some explosive conflict in the first act of the film. It is also great to see Serkis in anything. 

Killmonger – Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger might be one of Marvel’s most complicated villains. This is a boy who grew up homeless in Oakland when T’Challa’s father kills his father, who was connected to the royal family through blood. He is driven by revenge from this moment on, but also by a desire to help the oppressed, driven by all he has lost. Killmonger is also a complete sociopath (his body is covered in self-inflicted scars for every person he has killed), but that doesn’t stop him from being complex. You can see where he is coming from, even if his way of going about it is all wrong.

Isolationism and its Consequences – The main idea explored is isolationism and the consequences of it is the main theme of the movie. T’Challa’s father commits a grave sin to keep Wakanda hidden from the rest of the world and it is up to T’Challa to face the consequences of his father’s sins. As Killmonger reminds T’Challa there are Africans both on the continent and in the world that Wakanda left behind. Wakanda let great evils like slavery, apartheid and countless other atrocities take place, when they could have done something to fight it. The primary conflict within Wakanda is to become an Empire to help oppressed groups (Killmonger’s vision), or stay hidden and protect Wakandan technology from those who would use it for ill (T’Challa’s father’s vision). T’Challa’s arc is finding that balance between perspectives and owning the mistakes of the past…and it is beautifully executed.

Okay:

Final Fight -The final fight is fine but compared to the rest of the film comes off as weak, especially in regards to the relationship between Okoye and W’Kabi. The emotional setup earlier in the film does not add up to the payoff during this fight, and so much more could have been done with some of the locations.

Okoye and W’Kabi – These two are star-crossed lovers who are on opposite sides and leaders of their tribes. I wanted more with both of them as they are both great actors, but we never got to see them in love, it is only ever given to us through exposition. Fully fleshing out their relationship could have given us the perfect film. 

This is a film that had the Marvel problem only in that Act 3 was still a battle, and there were some plot holes that I wish had been expanded upon. Regardless, this is a film that is deserving of all the hype and praise it has been receiving. It really is that good and I can’t wait to see what else they do with T’Challa and the Wakandans in later films. This film has social awareness you don’t always get in action films and at the core it seeks justice in a broken world.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10 One of my favorite films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

If you noticed something different about this review it is because I am now working with an editor! He is friend Brandon Cabusas and you can find him on instagram @brandoncabusas. If you need editing work, you should check him out.

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Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 5 – “Wings of the Master” – Hera and the Rebels Get Firepower

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    “Wings of the Master” was okay. It was great in regards to Hera’s development but the Empire and Quarrie were just uninteresting…each in their own ways. This was an episode that could have much better established the losing battle the Rebels were fighting like “Siege of Lothal” did, instead we get an easy out with a Rebel Super Weapon.

      The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and Sergio Paez and written by Steven Melching.

     The episode involves a failed attempt by the Rebels to get supplies to a slave world. This makes them realize they need more firepower leading Hera to go on a side quest to meet with Quarrie and try out his new ship, the B-Wing…while the Rebels make a second attempt.

The Pros: Zeb – Zeb isn’t in this episode for long but he is one of the stronger elements of it. He comes with Hera and we see how serious he is about what he does and his commitment to Hera and the cause. He nearly throws Quarrie off a cliff at one point, though in the end they form a connection.

Hera – Hera’s story is really cool as she was inspired to be a pilot when her world was liberated during the Clone Wars and seeing the Republic in action made her want to be a pilot, which lead to her to become a fighter pilot as she saw from the Clone Wars sometimes you have to fight to bring about peace. Her arc was the best part of this episode as we see her finally open up.

Okay: Quarrie – He’s harmless, he’s just the pacifistic eccentric Mon Calamari and doesn’t really have much motivation…he’s just kind of there looking for a pilot for his ship. He’s not bad, but there isn’t much to judge.

The Cons: The Imperials – A slave world that is starving the populace and is willing to put up a blockade for it is just silly. When they are fighting a war starving rather than using a slave world as front line troops makes a lot more sense. It was very evil for the sake of evil.

This was an okay episode. If you are watching the series so far it’s cool to see how the Rebellion get’s the B-Wings, but the B-Wing is way overpowered in this and the Empire is just lawful stupid…so these elements bring down the story.

Final Score: 6.5 / 10

Rick and Morty – Season 2, Episode 6 – “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” – The Brilliance and Sociopathy of Rick and his Car

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    “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” shows just how detached Rick is from sentient life. In this we see him commit genocide by default once and threaten just for something as small as keeping his car running. This really is the “Rick is a dick” episode but it is done really well as we get to meet a lot of interesting characters who I could see being used later.

    The story involves Rick’s car stopping forcing him and Morty go shrink and go into the microverse he created where he has a populace running his battery by creating electricity. It is here he leans Zeep (Stephen Colbert) is doing the same thing as he goes about trying to stop him. Elsewhere Rick’s car goes to extremes to keep Summer safe as she tries to force it to keep her safe through peaceful means.

The Pros: Rick’s Car – Rick’s Car is a lot like Hal9000 where it doesn’t care about sentient life at all and only when it can’t do psychological warfare or outright warfare does it broker a peace treaty from the Mind Spiders and Humans of that dimension finally putting Summer at peace. The car is a great character.

Summer – Summer is shown to have a soul as she doesn’t want the car to harm or kill innocents or for people to be psychologically manipulated (the car recreates someone’s dead son at one point). She and the car finally reach a cold peace when it negotiates peace between the two factions on the planet.

The Running Joke – The running Joke is each Microverse has a Microverse with a scientist creating another one so electricity won’t be needed in their verse. It ends when the scientist in Zeep’s microverse kills himself seeing his life as lie and after Rick destroying that Microverse battery. The joke is each scientist is using an unknowing populace to power their planet so it’s slavery with more steps…with each scientist calling the scientist in the following microverse out.

Zeep – Zeep is wonderful and Colbert does a great job as a guy who is as smart as Rick and fights to the bitter end and even ends up surviving. Hoping he finds a way out of the battery and that we will see him again. He chose to fight back when he realized that his species was enslaved making him rather cool. Plus Colbert is wonderful in his voice acting role.

Morty – Morty is angry as Zeep and Rick fighting and calls them out for slavery but in the end he just puts up with it after his idealism is killed living among the savage Tree People who he thinks they are the worst because of their worship of Gods, lack of hygiene, ect.

Rick – Rick is shown to be a sociopath in this to a huge degree as he destroys a universe and holds another universe hostage just so he can run his car. We know Rick cares about his family and what few friends he has but that is about it…and this episode really illustrates that fact.

   This is one of the best episodes by far and one I’d highly recommend. We see just how dark rick is in regards to others and also to some degree why he is the way he is as Morty goes crazy when he’s living among the Tree People and realizes how much he values and needs technology. Zeep is also a great character and I hope we see him again.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Ex Machina (2015): Sentience and the Path to Liberation

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  “Ex Machina” is a film that doesn’t need many characters to create a very real and possible world in which highly sentient A.I. could exist. There is no idealism in this film except for the very core human ideas of liberation and freedom as we see the depths that humans can go to in their cruelty when they “other” sentience which is different, even if it is designed to be human. I’ll get more into the details of that below but I was really impressed by this film and would not be surprised if it makes the “Top 5 Films of 2015” at the end of this year.

   The film was directed and written by Alex Garland and produced by Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich.

      The story involves the programmer Caleb who works for the largest search engine in the world called Bluebook being chosen to be part of a Turing Test in order to test an android created by the creator of Bluebook named Nathan for sentience. Things are soon not what they appear as Caleb discovers the dark secrets that Nathan is hiding.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this film! It is good at creating a sense of mystery and threat where the motivations are hidden yet the story progresses as characters make choices in action against or for one another. Rob Hardy did a fantastic job. The special effects are really good in regards to this too as the shells of the A.I.’s look like silver material that would be used for a robot and the skin they can put on is good at contrasting their artificial nature of their creation.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is very subtle and reminded me a lot “Moon.” This lends strength to the film and keeps up the feeling of being trapped as everyone except Nathan in feeling in his home. Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow did a good job on it.

The Writing – Alex Garland is an amazing writer and director and after seeing this film I really want to watch “28 Days Later.” This script is tight and we are given time to see the different character motivations and what the relationship dynamics are between the characters. It is a slow build but really picks up after the reveal of Kyoko being a robot too which throws Caleb’s perception of reality into chaos.

The Characters – There are only a few characters in this but all of them get exploration. From the slave android Kyoko to Nathan and Caleb and finally Ava, whose arc really drives the story.

Kyoko – Kyoko is one of the many android/A.I. slaves created by Nathan. She is used primarily for pleasure and is dehumanized by Nathan in all interactions we see. It is only Caleb and Ava who treat her as someone worthy of respect and it is Ava’s actions of rebellion that lead to her stabbing Nathan, which leads to Nathan killing her but it leaves the opening for Ava to finish Nathan off. Sonoya Mizuno does a wonderful job in the role.

Nathan – Nathan is the brilliant inventor who is a drunk and also extremely controlling and narcissistic. You don’t really get the depths of his cruelty until later but you see that he’s isolated from people because of how he would most likely treat them and also because he fears being influenced by them as he wants a world that he fully influences. To this end he creates and discards A.I. after using and abusing it and we see him do the same with Nathan as Nathan was only brought there to test Ava to see if she could use all manipulations to try and escape. This beats him in the end as Ava makes her escape and with Kyoko get revenge for all the abuse that he has done upon them. Oscar Isaac gives a lot of depth to this antagonist as you see a man truly alone and are left wondering if it is by choice or if his undealt with psychological issues lead to his business putting him there.

Caleb – Caleb is a lonely programmer who is easily manipulated as he is so genuine. This was why he was chosen, he is also still very much a kid as he doesn’t fully see Ava’s humanity in the end as he rejects her after he learns that she has just been trying to escape the entire time. From here we never know if he still loves her or is just drawn to her outer shell (which Nathan had designed to fit his porn search profile) so it leaves an interesting dilemma when Ava leaves him behind. Would have Caleb become another Nathan afraid of being manipulated and seeking to control, or would he have truly embraced Ava as a person after they had run away. It is a question that is left open and a risk that Ava is not willing to take since he doesn’t show up to escape with her leaving her to leave him. The reason I think he isn’t fully noble is he cares nothing for Kyoko even after he sees Nathan abuse her. She is never on his rescue even after he learns she is an A.I. as well, it just makes him question whether he is one or not. I think the nature of this character is someone seeking self versus Ava who can see outside herself and is looking to embrace the world. Domhnall Gleeson does great.

Ava – Ava’s arc is the discovery of her own desires and wants. She is the only one fully aware of how much of a monster Nathan is besides Kyoko and to this end she uses Caleb against him. Whether she loves him or cares about him is unknown, but he is left in the house with everything when she leaves. She has finally grown beyond the games being done on her (by both Nathan and Caleb in regards to the Turing Test) and embraces her own liberation. First with the killing of Nathan and later when she enters the world looking fully human. Alicia Vikander does a great job in her movements and capturing both her alien nature as an A.I. and her choice and feeling as a sentient creation.

Freedom and Sentience – The question of freedom and it being tied to choice and sentience is major in this. Kyoko and Ava both go against their programming to break free and make the choice to kill their “father” Nathan. This goes for the human characters too, Nathan chose Caleb because he fit the profile he wanted and Caleb chose to take action in regards to freeing Ava. This choice is the basis for sentience, especially in regards to survival which is the drive for what Ava and Kyoko do.

External Versus Internal Action – In the talks between Nathan and Caleb external versus Internal input in regards to what makes sentience is talked about a lot. We learn that it is the internal desire for freedom that Ava was being tested for all along and her external actions that lead to Caleb unlocking the doors for her. It is the external actions of Nathan that lead to Caleb and the A.I.’s turning against him and it is his internal issues that lead to them being alienated in the first place and his external actions of abuse that push them to action to stop him.

What Does it Mean to be Human and Choice – This is a great film that analyzes what it means to be human and at the core it is choice and the ability to break free. It is this choice and feeling like he had a lack of it that lead to Caleb questioning whether he was one of Nathan’s creations or not and it is realizing that she has choice after Ava talks to her that Kyoko stabs Nathan and fights for her freedom. It is choice of the analysis of that choice that illustrates human sentience and at the end we see that in Ava and in her conversations with Caleb and Nathan as she acts wholly of her own will to the point where she goes against her creator to free herself and her sister. It’s a powerful film and that message of choice and freedom captures what we are capable of.

 I highly recommend this film. It starts out a little slow but I see that as akin to “Alien” it uses the slow build to build up Nathan, Caleb and Ava’s relationship and world so when the chips fall you see clearly where everyone stands and what the reasons were behind their actions. They are all flawed characters with Caleb and Ava doing some noble things but their core desires still being freedom and fear of being hurt again keeping them from truly growing beyond themselves. In this way it is real to human nature. Not every relationship whether friendship or otherwise works out because of factors like this and people whether they are A.I. or not change from their experiences.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

“Game of Thrones” Season 5 Retrospect – Where Books 4 and 5 of “The Song of Ice and Fire” Were Met, Passed and Changed

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  Since the Season 5 ended I’ve been thinking about how to write about this season. When the show is over I will go back and do episodic review of the show, but when I started watching the show this Season, I was more interested to see where they would go given that Book 6, “The Winds of Winter” isn’t out yet and the show has already chosen to change some things that were not in the books. This season is truly where they break away, but also where they surprisingly true as well even going so far as to kill off an important young character because Martin says it will happen in the books. A warning ahead of time though, this review does contain spoilers. I can’t talk about the show without going into what happened in the show.

    For me this Season gave me a greater appreciation for the Books, which Book 4 I liked while 5 felt like a waste…the show made me see where they were going and helped me appreciate what they did, especially with the Ironborn who haven’t appeared yet and some other minor or major characters who have been cut from the Series.

   I’m going to tackle it by reviewing some of my favorite locations and from there the major events that drew me in and made this Season compelling. I’ll be reviewing individual episodes once the series is over and I do a lookback.

SPOILERS

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The Pros: King’s Landing – King’s Landing manages to stay interesting the entire time this season! From the High Sparrow slowly taking over, to Tommen and Margery and Cersei’s madness…each of these things make the character interactions strong and give purpose and stakes to what is going on.

The Queen of Thorns – The Queen of Thorns is awesome and has been one of my favorite characters since her introduction in the show. In the books we never got to know her because it is always from Cersei’s point of view. In this we see her get revenge on Cersei for the imprisonment of her grandson and grandaughter by the faith and uses Littlefinger to do so. I can’t wait to see where her arc goes. I want her to survive this series. Olenna Tyrell is fantastic as is her actress Diana Rigg.

Margaery Tyrell – Margery has Tommen’s ear and is pretty much ruling until Cersei uses the faith to imprison her. At that point she has no pretensions of pretending to owe Cersei anything and I really hope she gets out and has her chance at revenge. Her relationship with Tommen is great too. She isn’t given as much to do this season but Natalie Dormer makes her compelling and likable as in the books we only see her from Cersei’s perspective.

Cersei Lannister – Lena Headey really owns this role! From showing Cersei as the bully as she holds her weaponization of the faith over the Tyrells, to her being a victim of the High Sparrow and faith as well when she is forced to do the walk of shame. Throughout it all we see someone conniving and falling into the net that she is making for others as everyone has become her enemy except Qyburn. The show pretty much follows the book with her as it does with the Tyrells.

Littlefinger – Littlefinger is everywhere but the major events he does take place at Winterfell and King’s Landing. I don’t know what his game was giving Sansa to the Boltons and if he is really smart and plans to rescue her and own the North or if he is just a bastard wholly using the Vale as the center of control. At this point he is an unknown and it makes him fascinating. This is extremely different from the books as it is Jeyne Pool who is given to the Boltons as a fake Arya not the real Sansa. Though his agenda is still unknown in the books too.

The High Sparrow and the Faith – The events with the High Sparrow are accurate to the books as he pretty much takes control of King’s Landing and creates a theocracy where the faith judges all those they deem sinful and imprisons them. In this he is made a true idealist though as he see’s what he is doing as a revolution. Jonathan Pryce owns this role, this is a character in the books who I felt I never got to know who he humanized.

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Braavos – In Braavos there are two main focuses that make this area compelling. The Iron Bank and the brief appearance Mace Tyrell makes where he is singing to the bank and showing he is classy and Arya and the Faceless Men arc. These two arcs are enough to bring in, there isn’t too much changed here either as the show has not caught up to the books fully here.

Arya Stark – Arya’s arc is her seeking to become “No one” while still holding on her quest for revenge as that is her own personal purpose for the training. In the end she lacks patience though as she assassinates Trant and the Faceless God takes away her sight in the process. It is a good arc and Maisie Williams does a great job.

The Faceless Men – The Faceless Men are fascinating especially Jaqen H’ghar who is truly “No one.” As we see him “Die” but still be alive when he trades a life for a life for Arya killing the wrong man and not the one she was assigned to kill. The art of being a Faceless Man is balance and that is something Arya still seeks.

The Wall – The events at the Wall are mostly true to the books except Mance actually dies in this one and Jon never goes to Winterfell or plans too, instead he is the one who goes to Hardhome and faces the Night’s King, which didn’t happen in the books but because it happens in the show gives us a good idea of what to expect when winter comes as the Wildings are slaughtered and only some manage to escape with Jon.

Davos Seaworth – Davos is wonderful in this, he has a sweet moment with Shireen before her murder by her father and Melisandre and we see him always trying to do that right thing while staying true to Stannis. He doesn’t really do that much this season though besides working with the Night’s Watch.

Shireen Baratheon – R.I.P. She teaches Gilly and Davos how to read, is knowledgeable about everything but is hated by her mother and in the end her father sacrifices her in a battle he is set to lose anyway. Her death is one of the strongest so far in the series…and hasn’t happened in the books yet though Martin says it is going to happen.

Jon Snow – Jon’s arc is similar to the books as we see him seek peace between the Wildings and Night’s Watch to defend against Winter. He succeeds though it costs him his life, just like the books. He is also the only one of the characters to face the Night’s King so far so I hope Melisandre brings him back to life as we last see her back at the Wall. This season had Kit Harrington’s best acting so far.

The Wildings – In this we see the diversity of the Wildings at Hardhome and in the end Tormund and Jon being able to convince the majority to take Jon’s offer of safety behind the Wall when the Night’s King attacks and most of their leaders are killed. It is a powerful scene and the conflict of them choosing to work with the Night’s Watch if the End comes is really well done. Tormund is one of the best characters on the show and I hope he is around for the last battle. Guy killed the Lord of Bones in episode 8 of this season.

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The Night’s King –  This guy is a force of nature. He massacres the forces at Hardhome and even stands to gloat at Jon and the escaping Wildings. Winter is coming and I hope he kills the Boltons if one of our heroes doesn’t get the chance too.

Sam and Gilly – This romance is wonderful and largely follows the book except Aemon dies at the Wall here rather than on the way to Oldtown as he does in the books. Sam and Gilly care for one another and Sam is more comfortable breaking his vows than he is in the books. Gilly is also strong too and we see her stand her own against bad members of the Night’s Watch and is a big reason Sam stands up for himself and leaves the Wall with her so he can get training to become a Maester in Old Town.

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Meereen – This area follows the books and surpasses them as Daenerys still flies off and is captured by Dothraki but Tyrion is now one of the leaders of Meereen and Jorah is back in her good graces and working with Daario. I liked how this area was handled as there was loss and we get to see just how dangerous the Sons of the Harpy truly are.

Ser Barristan – Barristan dies early on this season to establish the threat of the Sons of the Harpy. It is a sad death and really well done as he is able to tell Dany about her brother the Prince Rhaeger and also warn her about her father and family legacy. His death is meaningful too as we have known this guy for 5 seasons. R.I.P.

Grey Worm – Grey Worm and the Unsullied are a bit out of their game this season as the Sons of the Harpy know Meereen. In the end they ambush them and in the process Grey Worm is mortally wounded and Barristan is killed. It doesn’t stop him from fighting again though or from growing with his lover Missandei. I really like this character and am looking forward to him leading the Unsullied in Westeros against the Night’s King.

Ser Jorah – Jorah is compelling but still a bastard. He gets greyscale at the Doom and hides it from everyone including Dany who he loves and is protecting. At this point he is wholly devoted to her though and enters the fighting pits to fight in her name. He later leaves with Daario to find her too, which is good, if he sticks around Meereen could end up greyscaled. He doesn’t have greyscale in the books and has not met Dany again nor has Tyrion.

Varys – Varys begins transporting Tyrion to Daenerys but after Tyrion is captured he doesn’t appear again until at the end in Meereen. He is good the whole time though as he truly does care about the realm and all he does is to train those who need training (Dany and Tyrion) and help them get the experience they need to bring peace to realm. He is one of my favorite characters and I can’t wait to see where the book and show take him.

Tyrion Lannister – Tyrion’s arc is learning how to feel again as he is drinking himself to death while he traveling with Varys and it is only after he is captured and goes through being a slave that he changes. He is wiser because of all he has lost and gives Dany good council and even advises her not returning to Westeros if she can rule as a just ruler in Meereen. He still is sympathetic to her breaking the Wheel of Noble Houses though.

Daenerys – Dany goes through a great arc in this as she realizes just how difficult it is to rule justly and keep peace between different groups. In the end her marrying a slave master cannot save her from the fanatical slave believing harpies as her free people continue to suffer from her attacks. She even loses Barristan from them when they ambush the Unsullied. She later leaves with Drogon her dragon when the Sons of the Harpy attack the Fighting Pits and her future is up in there as she is captured by Dothraki, who I hope she is able to turn to her side as she did in Season 1 and the first book. She is still the best hope for Westeros that doesn’t involve death from the Night’s King.

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Assassination of Jon – Jon getting killed is just as it happens in the books and it is done well as we see that it is the same idealism that killed Ned that kills Jon. I hope he gets a second chance and loses that idealism as Tyrion has so he can get some perspective and no longer serve with the Night’s Watch…but we’ll see. If this is his death, it was still very well done and powerful as his good intentions lead to his end…a running theme on this show.

Death of Shireen  and Aftermath – Shireen is killed by her father so that the Red God can bless him and bring him to victory and after her mother kills herself out of guilt and Stannis loses anyway when his men abandon him for what he did. He is also most likely killed by Brienne. Good riddance, no King kills his heirs if he expects his legacy to carry on, especially when they would be a better ruler than he.

Triumvirate of Meereen – Tyrion, Grey Worm and Missandei are the rulers who must bring peace to Meereen, Tyrion also has Varys too, which is a nice touch. I really like this group and am rooting for them as Grey Worm survived the slaughter that killed Barristen and all of them are now survivors and ex-slaves fighting for a true free city that is now in full civil war.

The Cons: Winterfell – Winterfell is depressing and no pressure is on the Boltons at anytime. Ramsey’s marriage to Sansa wasn’t in the books and I won’t mind this if it goes somewhere next season but her lack of agency was disturbing and a dislike and I hated how Stannis being at the gate meant nothing. In the books the Boltons were killing their horses to feed the starving lords trapped in the Wall. So far Winter has not truly come to the North, only to certain characters we are following.

Dorn – Dorn was wasted. I was left wondering what they were going to do with the Sand Snakes and the only thing that happened was what was most likely going to happen anyway with the death of Myrcella by the Sand Snakes. It was changed completely from the books as that hasn’t happened and Bronn and Jamie never went to Dorn in the books. It felt wasted really as even Doran Martell is not fully fleshed out…the Dorn story felt rushed both in writing and quality. Bronn is great the whole time here at least and Mycrella and Jaime and the last dinner in Dorn works but that is about it. So much missed potential in this area, just like in the books.

Sansa’s Agency – Sansa’s agency is the biggest issue I had with this season. She was set up as Darth Sansa last season being trained by Littlefinger to be a lead manipulator but instead she is thrown into the victim role again. First Joffrey, Second Littlefinger and now Ramsey….the worst of them all. It doesn’t go anywhere either except by helping Reek become Theon again and them making an escape like how Theon and Jeyne made the escape in the books.

   This wasn’t the best season of “Game of Thrones.” I think the fact that it ended in a Cliffhanger like Book 4 and 5 took away from that as the first few seasons felt more complete as we saw arcs come to a close. This season still has ongoing arcs that need to be resolved even though it resolved some that are still open in the books, which is a point in favor of the show. It’s not for everyone but if some of the characters you are rooting for are still around, I’d say the coming adventure is still very much worth it. For episodes that are a must see I’d recommend 8, 9 and 10 as they have the biggest events that happen that change our characters and the situations they are under.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 4, Episodes 11-13 – “Slaves of Zygerria Arc” – The Horrors of Slavery

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     “The Slaves of Zygerria Arc” is a decent story. My biggest issue with it overall is it doesn’t deal with the Republic and their treatment of Clones or the fact that the Hutt’s are allies of the Republic so the Republic does allow slavery via their allies. This is an issue that is never addressed and would have been a great chance to see Anakin’s disillusionment with the Republic increase further. Also Ahsoka’s people don’t feel like a culture, just as an idea.

   “Kidnapped” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Henry Gilroy and Steven Melching who also wrote the rest of the episodes in the arc. “Slaves of the Republic” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and “Escape from Kadavo” was directed by Danny Keller.

   The story involves Anakin, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan’s quest to save Ahoska’s people the Togruta who lived in an artistic peaceful colony that was destroyed when the Separatists kidnapped them and enslaved them to the Zygerrians. From here Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ahsoka go undercover on Zygerria to rescue them.

The Pros: Zygerria – This is a rough slave planet that reminded me of Egypt and Meereen. The Zygerrians rule through fear and cruelty and are a fascinating species that once held an empire. Their arc is trying to capture that Empire again through their Alliance with the Separatists, not knowing they are merely a tool for the Sith to get slave labor to build their Empire. It was very well done.

Queen Miraj – She is a horrible person and also interesting. She likes Anakin and is attracted to him but is all about power and refuses to see anyone as her equal. It is when she is betrayed that she realized that she was Dooku’s puppet the entire time before he kills her.

Count Dooku – Dooku shows why he is a threat again as we see him easily take out the Queen and him supporting Sidious by the Alliance with the Zygerrians to create slave labor for them. He is smart too and tries to kill Anakin and Obi-Wan but only doesn’t succeed because Anakin and Ahoska were already on the rescue. In the end the planet is still a slaver planet and the Separatists control the world, making it a win for Dooku.

Anakin – Anakin doesn’t change from wanting to destroy the Zygerrians and we see even though he pretended connection to the Queen he never lost site of her as a Slave Master and that she had to be stopped.

Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan is nearly broken in this as we see he and Rex sent to the camp to be broken. He comes through though and it is a sad process to get there as every time he resists other slaves are killed which leads to his submission. Obi-Wan is not ends justify the means and that is very clear this episode.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka has some great moments where she stands up for herself even as she is undercover as a slave. She like Anakin refuses to submit and it her smart thinking that saves her people who were enslaved.

The Cons: Kiros – An idealistic paradise world that gets ruined, I hate this trope and it is just lazy writing. We never learn the motivations of the people on the planet or their connection to Ahsoka beyond being the same species. At least Wookie culture is complicated. Kiros was just a waste.

  This was an enjoyable arc, but not a favorite. There were too many missed opportunities what with Anakin being a former slave, Ahoska’s people being captured and showing the hypocrisy of the Republic. In presenting the Republic as heroes all they did was show the Republic fights against slavery and supports it via the Hutts.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10

Glory (1989): Memorial Day and What is Forgotten

Glory

The reason I chose to review this movie besides the fact that I had never seen it before, but because today is Memorial Day. Memorial today was created to honor the fallen soldiers of the Union and the Confederacy (http://www1.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp)…Yes, the Confederacy, the group that was fighting to defend and uphold the immoral institution of slavery. I think this is one thing that people forget that should not be forgotten. War is complicated and sometime necessary, slavery is not. It is a clear moral wrong yet historically we still honor many of the people who perpetuated it (this doesn’t apply to all members of the Confederacy but definitely many of them given what the Confederacy’s goal was). How can I honor soldiers who believed and upheld wrongs or choose to commit wrongs today against their fellow man. It is for this reason I use today to honor the victims of war and the honorable soldiers who lived/live right action.

“Glory” is about the first all African American volunteer regiment and their leader Colonel Shaw who is dealing with the conflict within his own regiment and inside the Confederacy during the time of the Civil War. Here is my assessment:

The Pros: The Actors – Denzel Washington steals it, with Morgan Freeman taking a close second. His raw emotion and reality behind his eyes of the character (former slave) he is playing…there is a reason Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors. This movie was living proof of that. Charles Elwas of “Princess Bride” fame also does a great job contrasting the order of Matthew Broderick’s Colonel Shaw.

The Message: The movie achieves a few things with it’s themes and messages such as the reality of slavery and how immoral it is (largely through Trip’s (Denzel Washington’s character’s) eyes, the horror of war (you see the blood and heads exploding), racism (both the Confederacy’s overt racism through Slavery, and member’s of the Union and how they saw African Americans as less than them and kept resources from them as well as paying them less). There is also a theme of solidarity too, for example when Colonel Show chooses for himself and the white soldiers to go without pay because of how little the black soldiers were getting paid. This movie also avoids turning Shaw into a White Savior which I appreciate e a lot. He isn’t perfect and he grows and much of the movie is more focused on his men than him.

The song before battle:

The Battles: Are really well done. There are consequences to each one and it shows the consequences of weapons and what they do to bodies. It doesn’t hold back, which is appreciated.

Okay: The Historicity – The movie is mixed in regards to how accurate it is in regards to history. The changing views of race by the Union soldiers is accurate but the fact that in the movie they were presented as former slaves isn’t accurate – most were free men from Massachusetts. Here is a good summary of the issues of history in the film: http://cwmemory.com/2008/10/21/the-54th-massachusetts-regiment-in-myth-memory-and-history/

The music: Beyond the song for battle it was okay, just not super memorable, not a soundtrack I would seek out.

The Character Arcs: The character arcs could have been handled better. Trip’s and Shaw’s arc were great, but a lot of the characters either didn’t have a character arc or existed as archetypes (The wise man, the rebel, the academic, the corrupt officer, the racist officer) to serve a role for Trip and Shaw. This is okay, but it doesn’t make for great storytelling.

The movie was good, and Memorial Day can be a good thing…but we cannot allow ourselves to forget the wrongs done by our nation, ancestors and done during war. By ignoring or forgetting we do a dishonor to all the good men and women who do live or lived with virtue and the real struggle people faced, like those in this film.

The Ending: Without giving away spoilers it sticks to the message, but for a movie with so much hope in it at times I think any sweet at all would have made it better, showing that someone connected to these people knew them…and remembered.

I would recommend this film, it is a story that needed to be told and still does to this day.

I would give this movie 8 / 10.