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pure entertainment
Salvation is one of the easiest to watch, most entertaining shows in the modern era - and deserved better than two fantastic seasons. While we're all in a golden age of television writing, and the options seem diverse - Salvation is unique in its entertainment at all cost approach. The only other show on this level that is similar would be The 100, and I would argue that through two seasons, Salvation is far superior because of how focused it is. Both shows have amazing casting, but Salvation's cast is far smaller, so more time can be spent with each main character. This focus carries over into each storyline and the overall arc. The 100 seems improvised by comparison. I am (actually) a huge fan of The 100, but fully recognize this shows absurdity and weaknesses. Salvation is equally silly, but because of its focus, the viewer investment just gets stronger each episode. Which is why fans of this show are so furious! How could this show end after season two? First of all, because of a cliffhanger ending, but mostly? Because this show is Awesome! It's potential for future excellence is obvious - and to throw away that potential? I am Very disappointed!

As I said, the cast is excellent - and equally attractive. The relationships between these characters is a huge part of the show, and is handled almost like a daily soap opera - and I mean this in a truly complimentary way (fyi). Just like everything in this show, the relationships are unrealistic and hilarious, and just are icing on top of all the other fun content.

Which is? A doomsday scenario for the planet earth, with an Elon Musk type billionaire main character, who is relied upon for solutions. Other players are high up members of the US government, with a few family members and surrounding characters - but all the periphery characters really just add texture to the main characters, of which there are five. It is a very nice number, and Salvation really is a clinic on how to create grand scenarios, with only a few emphasized characters.

Salvation gets my top recommendation, and while it may not be in the same league as the greatest shows, the GoT's or True Detective's, so much TV takes itself so seriously, and actually works against entertainment for delivery of meaningful content, or some other nonsense. I know, people are in to this, and that is fine, but I'm marking this show up at least a full star for it's entertainment first, unrelenting approach. I applaud it's makers, cast and crew - and pine it's cancellation.

Oh well! At least there was two seasons at all to enjoy! Love it - 9/10


entertainment above all else
2012 is a AAA Blockbuster, a popcorn eating summer film, a movie one watches for a single reason: Entertainment. 2012 immediately establishes a visual style that can transition from ordinary scenes to special effects sequences nearly flawlessly. Pace is very well managed, and all the scenes follow a logical tempo - depending upon the nature of the given content. In other words this film is well produce and well directed.

2012 is a highly kinetic, outlandish natural disaster movie - that easily could be considered the best of this particular genre. The absurd, over the top nature of the special effects sequences has to be seen to be believed, and even more recent films like San Andreas are 2nd class compared to the audio visual display in this film.

Casting and performances are way better than one would expect in this type of movie - for all the action and spectacle? The characters carry this film from scene to scene, with no weak links. There are some stand out performances by Woody Harrelson (short but sweet) and Tom McCarthy (who's strait guy act in insane situations is so convincing, it's easy to overlook his excellent performance throughout the film).

While I'd consider this a movie the whole family can watch, there is an element of darkness in the content. While this movie isn't violent, implied violence occurs as a result of the disaster, regularly. Even the main characters face consequences, which is necessary to maintain the films tension.

I'm a huge fan of the overall morality of this film. It overtly maintains an optimistic attitude, while tragedy occurs in every major scene. Perhaps this is because this isn't a serious film, but it is an interesting dynamic regardless. The film clearly takes sides in any science vs religion debate - taking the side of science, which is perhaps ironic? Because many very basic scientific principles are regularly broken in order for this film to work stylistically. Not to mention the title of this film presents mystical prophecy. Regardless, I appreciate how this film presents this argument through storytelling, right from the opening scene.

I would say this movie gets off to a fantastic start, starting the tension off with big ideas. The first act is by far the best part of the movie. It's punctuated by (imo) one of the greatest special effect sequences ever created for the big screen. It relies heavily on computer graphic effects, and I think many viewers simply can not suspend enough disbelief to fully enjoy this scene, but if you can? Strap in! and enjoy the ride!

There is another noteworthy action scene that lives up to the first, but other that that - the effects come when needed to show the spread of destruction and chaos. This would be my one major critique of the film. The best scenes are in the first couple acts, then the final act is more about individuals being brave in much smaller scale scenes. While this allows more focus on all the main characters, I'd rather have the mother of all spectacle scenes to end the film, actually trumping the scenes earlier in the film.

But that may be a bit of a harsh critique, when really? This movie doesn't make any huge mistakes. The story is complete, characters are developed, and spectacular large scale scenes unfold in (somewhat) of a believable manner.

One more comment on the special effects. In all of the large scale scenes, the way water, chunks of earth and buildings crash against each other? It looks... realistic! I mean, if a 5000 ton chunk of a mountain was thrown a mile in the air and landed 100 meters away you in reality? It would probably look and sound something like the special effects in this film! While this movie relies heavily on computer graphics, all of the CG has an actual depth, and the consistency of the lighting in the CG that is combined with live action shots? All I can say is the visual style of this film is quite the achievement.

2012 was made for 200 million (quite a bargain, really) and made 150 million in the US and 550+ million overseas. So in a way 2012 is one of the movies that can be blamed for insipid AAA films that, attempting to gain the largest world audience, end up being an unwatchable mess to seasoned fans of films. But I would argue that movies like this and the original Charlies Angels had such great overseas success not because of universal appeal, but because they are examples of quality AAA films that emphasize entertainment above all other qualities. Great filmmaking still needs to occur! Emphasizing entertainment may cut some corners with logic and force an audience to suspend disbelief... but you can't make trash films like the Transformer sequels and then just expect they will succeed! And this is why I really appreciate 2012, and feel it holds up to multiple viewings. Regardless of its ridiculousness - 2012 contains a ton of quality film making.

Entertainment! 8/10

First Man

Painfully Average Account of an American Legend
When I find myself analyzing a film on it's first watch through - scrutinizing every detail: the good and the not so good... that is not a good sign. There are few people as easy to immerse into a movie than myself, as long as a movie is entertaining.

Here we have an amazing subject, who lived a very singular, heroic life - and we the audience get to spend 1/2 this movie in domestic situations? Often without the main character present? How dumb is that?

I know I should never want something from a film, specifically - so that when it does not deliver, I may ignore a movies actual merit. But come on! This isn't rocket science! Well... it is literally, but figuratively? Tell an exciting story about an exciting guy! When did he become a pilot? How many aircraft did he fly? How many times did he cheat death? How about actually focusing on his greatest achievement... the title of the film... and show how he was the tip of the spear, a main player in this technological expanse of our nation!

This movie comes off thinking an audience member would be more interested when Armstrong met his wife?!? How dumb is that?

If Neil Armstrong was so stoic, calculated and... dull - perhaps taking such a literal/grounded approach to his character was a mistake! But I learned something? Really? This must be one of the worst arguments for a feature length motion picture - if a film doesn't entertain, any unloading of information is irrelevant.

From a production standpoint, this isn't a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. The special effects crew should be really pleased with their work (in about 5% of the movie, when you can actually see what is going on). The effects have a retro look that fits the style of the film, yet a clarity and resolution that is quite beautiful to behold. So... lets put the camera 2 inches from the characters face in the most intense sequences that could utilized for wonderful special effects... How dumb is that? Yea, as a viewer, I want to look at a shaking helmet for 10 strait minutes instead of seeing exterior views of an intense event. Actually? I don't.

It's funny, thinking back - this movie actually makes me angrier now than when I was watching it. First Man is well made, and I was kinda into it, like I said, fully analyzing everything when viewing, instead of being lost in the experience, like any good director would prefer. Now? I'm just amazed by a series of choices the film makers made to hold this project back: script emphasizing domestic life, action sequences highlighted by incomprehensible close ups and clattering noise, and portraying the hero as a stoic, math head. I left this film, somehow caring less about these events than more - I had to do some reading and watching of interviews on youtube to rekindle my fascination and interest in the man. And that is pathetic. In this way, for me - this movie is a disgrace.

Well made movie that made a lot of baffling choices: 4/10 - actually? I enjoyed this film less that that.

The Post

overrated snore fest
With so many pieces in the right place, one would think that The Post is a guarantee - an absolute sure shot of a hit.

Watch out! Because unless you want a history lesson taught in slow motion, with average performances, a forgettable score and uninspired camera work? One might say this movie isn't what you'd expect. Me? I expected a better movie!

But I learned something! Really? Yea, I learned about a bunch of documents, precedent and saw newspapers being made! And it all was a really big deal!

That doesn't mean you should make a AAA movie about it - that doesn't mean this event will translate into an entertaining film. I'm sure with a more unique approach this film could have worked. But to me, it is very strait forward unloading of information lacking artistic merit. I don't want to make light of all the hard work that clearly went into this film, but there is no spark.

forgettable account of important historic event - 6/10

36.15 code Père Noël

the original Home Alone
No matter what story one believes - Game Over released in 1989, a year before Home Alone. The resemblance of the movies is not only striking, it becomes difficult to believe that John Hughes didn't use this film as inspiration for his classic Christmas tale. He claimed he came up with the idea (a year before) while on a European family vacation. Hmmm.... pretty interesting that this film released, in Europe, a year before Home Alone. The timeline may in fact be too tight for this to even be logically possible, so I'm not completely ruling out coincidence.

How about this movie? It's a more mature Home Alone, with an early 80's action movie look. The setting and characters are (mostly) contrived, and to buy in the viewer has to suspend a lot of disbelief. A family mansion (the main location) has this absurd, mouse trap, set up due to a brilliant child's handy work. It helps his folks are/were ultra rich toy manufacturers - flooding their child with toys and gizmos, while also allowing free reign of home modifications.

The one character who really stands apart from the others is the villain. He's portrayed as a truly mentally damaged individual, who seems to have good intentions, but due to his outcast nature, is never accepted, and feels compelled to do dark things. But even at the villains worst, his character has real humanity that makes his journey in this film, quite tragic. Never quite so much that your rooting interest changes from protagonist to antagonist - but by the end, I saw him as a complex/tragic character, not a single dimensional killer.

Which is a very odd mix of content in a movie that clearly has funny moments, and is built on entertainment.

I wouldn't consider this a Christmas film in any sense other than the films setting. The time of year is a backdrop for the events, and really the film does little to embellish, or critique the holidays. I would also consider this a flaw of the film, where all aspects should serve the story completely.

Game Over may be worth finding and watching for fans of 80's action movies and maybe if your interested in seeing a more mature version of Home Alone. But big fans of Home Alone (I suspect) would not be to high on this movie. Why? It does not have the light feel, humor, or clean Hollywood production values.

a slightly above average film, but marked up to a 7/10 due to it's unique nature.

one last note: I always hope a film maker like this takes off after a film like this, but it wasn't the case. At best Rene Manzor has continued to work, but there appears to be no continuation of this films inspiration or vision. I'm just disappointed this film maker doesn't have a few more outlandish films made after this one. This movie should have informed producers of this guys clear ability as director.


Millennial film making
Basically, Kin feels like a long first episode of an average TV show, albeit with (occasional) stand out special effects, and a nice music score.

If this was a TV episode, that would be ok (even pretty impressive), but as a feature length motion picture? This film is a bleak example of modern script writing. Truly, on a single read of this script, one could scratch out the first 90%, use the last scene as the intro, then actually get on with the story. If any of this films content then became needed, it could be revealed in flashbacks, seamlessly built into an actual adventure (for example).

Instead? The viewer is led on a disjointed journey that makes very little sense, capped off with an ending that comes completely out of nowhere, but is supposed to serve as the intro to some new film franchise?

It's awful. If this was just a bad movie, I would rate it at a 6 for some of the clear merits. This film is cool in a way - it has this odd mix of electro music, weird technology, but remains grounded in the present with colorful urban locations and characters.

But the negative qualities of this film need to be called out (hence the below average score) - how can filmmakers go into a project intended as a build up? The point of making a movie... is actually making a complete film! At least I think so. I am not a fan of utilizing television style, episodic structures to try and build a franchise. I'm way more interested in seeing the vision of writer/director unfold onscreen, with all emphasis aimed within the actual project - which clearly wasn't the goal of Kin.

good first episode, but as a movie? 4/10

Saving Banksy

explosive art
On the surface is an average documentary. I believe the film makers did just enough to communicate their viewpoints regarding Banksy, graffiti and its place in todays world of fine art . To this end, this really is a thesis film, but falls under the genre of documentary.

This film is supportive of graffiti art and the artists who work has stemmed from this activity. This film glorifies the criminal nature of tagging (as adventure, which it is), and utilizes graffiti artists and their supporters for perspective - there is no meaningful counterpoint, which to most viewers really won't matter - Saving Banksy does a good job of presenting content in a convincing manner. Most people will agree with the points made, especially artists.

I actually (kinda) feel the same way about Banksy's art that I do about this film - His work is good bordering on great, and has an excellent balance of form and content. Banksy's public graffiti is well thought out, and can be analyzed/critiqued based upon artistic merit alone in a very deep and extended conversation. However, these qualities are just the beginning of the Banksy phenomenon. It's like when he completes a public work - those in that environment, at all levels, go absolutely bananas. An irrational freak-out fest ensues, and people go Way out of their way to complicate something that really isn't that significant in the grand scheme of things. However, this ends up being a wonderful metaphor for so many aspects of reality at this moment (currently 2018). People losing their minds over nothing, and making the simple very, very complicated. And you know that Banksy understands all this, and absolutely must love his injections of chaos into communities and the art world as a whole. To me, this is the brilliance of Banksy - not the work itself, but the reaction his art elicits.

So worth watching? Absolutely - a savvy viewer can read between the lines, and turn what really is a pretty average film into something memorable and compelling. But (by and large) this is a function of the content, and not inherent to the film making. This isn't necessarily a harsh critique; part of a film makers role is to know when to emphasize content, and when to get out of the way and allow the content to speak for itself. That would be the optimistic outlook on this film. The other side would be that this film had a chance to be truly special had the filmmakers emphasized the explosion that occurs when Banksy unleashes his creations on the public. In doing so the film could have asked more questions about what this all might mean, and (perhaps) attempt to define Banksy's historical context. But this is an opinion, and I will admit that maybe this film is better for allowing the viewer to formulate their own conclusions.

random observation (rant): One thing that can be gleaned from the interviews with graffiti artists in this film is that they (the people asked about Banksy), by and large, felt this film was about them - or (at least) that they are peers with Banksy. Don't get it mistaken, they aren't. I do think at least one of the artists really realized their significance with regard to Banksy (by the way he answered questions), and it is ironic, because their work might be the strongest (formally) in the entire film. But, my point would be that none of these artists interviewed are anywhere near Banksy in terms of relevance - Banksy has few peers in todays world of fine art. He is not merely a graffiti artist, he is utilizing the painting sub-genre tactically, brilliantly.

average film, marked up for fascinating nature of content: 7/10

The Beyond

visually arresting, but...
The beyond is not a unique film, borrowing elements from Robocop, Europa Report, and other movies that strive for that real looking (but fake) documentary look. Robocop and Europa Report? Must be a good movie then, right? Wrong!

This movie drifts from idea to idea, and when it borrows - it forgets to borrow the most important film quality: Entertainment. I think this movie might be a good watch for people who multitask while a movie is on. Because whenever you take this movie in, there is generally something of visually interest. But actually sitting down, focusing and absorbing the content? One is pelted with a lot of unfocused ideas that kinda tell a story regarding future exploration and alien contact.

If there is one thing I really like about this movie is the optimistic take on the unknown, in this current era of intense social cynicism.

Ultimately though - I felt the film lacked a clear narrative, lacked consistent pacing, and has marginal success in terms of casting, acting, directing.

not unwatchable, but imo an average 5/10

Strange Angel

rocket fuel
Strange Angel, even in todays wide array of television shows, is truly a unique experience worth watching by seasoned media fans.

A description I like is combining the film the Aviator with David Lynch's new Twin Peaks. This may not be accurate, but it gives an idea of what one will be getting into. The presentation is really pretty strait forward - there aren't many cryptic film making techniques. The weirdness comes in the shape of reality bending scenes, and the crazy content. I would say if a viewer likes Man in the High Castle, they would probably also like Strange Angel. Strange Angel is way more grounded, being based in historical non-fiction, but both have very unique content, a slow pace, and a similar approach to main vs surrounding characters.

Strange angel is a period piece, taking place in the late 30's Los Angeles. The main character is a blue collar worker at a chemical plant, but has dreams of realizing practical rocket technology which he pursues with his academic, best friend. Combine this with an indoctrination into a sex cult, and hallucinations that both the main characters experience regularly? Things get pretty interesting. There is a beautiful mix of logic, science, science fiction and the occult.

But nothing moves in too much of a hurry. Despite rocket technology playing a major role, the pace of Strange Angel is pretty dang slow. This will be the limiting characteristic to many viewers, but it shouldn't be. This show is wildly entertaining. Episodes build up to big scenes, and the entire season builds up to an excellent final episode.

The casting is as good as TV gets. The two main characters, husband and wife, are immediately likable, and easy to route for. Both are textured, flawed individuals searching... for a better life? success? happiness? Interesting, because their goals are never really crystal clear, and there is a lot of dealing with daily events - just like in real life. But in spite of distractions, difficulties, set backs and conflict - the two are constantly trying to grow and evolve, while overcoming challenges. I'm not saying the viewer will always agree with choices made, or all their motivations, but everything is always so intriguing! Surrounding characters are equally well cast, and their activities always intertwine with the story of the Parsons (the main characters). There is a clear vision to the scripting, which likely took a great deal of work to refine.

I'm obviously a fan of everything this season has achieved, but the number one quality may be the camera work, cinematography. The visuals, their construction (effects), the design of shots, and the pace established is top notch. Really all the production is excellent, and Strange Angel lives up to the new norm of incredible, movie like episodes, that many recent shows achieve.

So why an 8, not a 9 or 10? Occasionally, even I want the show to get on with the content - where you know a big moment is coming, but the build up can at times feel delayed. I would have liked the season to include at least one more episode. While I loved the last episode, I was surprised how many questions were left unresolved. Really, Strange Angel has a lot of room to improve. I hope for not only a second season, but a completed vision (5 seasons to complete is what I read) - the unique nature of the show (and delivery method) makes me wonder about it's future.

But hopefully my concerns are for not, and the second season will get made. If this happens, this new intellectual property will likely gain the following it deserves. With all the entertainment fluff out there, it is nice to have some mature programming for adults.

The Walking Dead

Post Mortem
I loved most episodes of TWD through four seasons, so despite how far (and how fast) TWD descended into bad TV - I can't rate this show any lower than a 6/10. But TWD is dead to me, so I won't see how much further this show can tarnish it's own legacy.

The first season of TWD is borderline brilliant - it placed mostly unlikable characters into a new reality populated by zombies. Each main character goes through massive character transformations due to the harsh new reality. The writers knew they needed time to develop these characters, and that watching them change is how they all became so likable. With a constant threat of death being very real, TWD had sustained tension - which at it's best - was tangible through each episode, scene, shot. The gamble the writers took with their characters payed off. Producers saw the potential of the first season, and green lit the second - this is where TWD really gained it's core fan base, including myself.

After a terrific run of several seasons, the writers just seemed to run out of ideas, and instead of evolving, TWD devolved into increasingly less interesting scenarios - generally propping up a new antagonist, each more loathsome than the last. The great episodes become fewer and fewer between, and poor episodes (in a variety of ways) become more common. Bad in what ways? Generally speaking: poorly organized large scale scenes with equally sloppy camera work, less than special effects, dialog heavy, actually boring episodes, and uneven focus on secondary vs primary characters.

I always called the core characters the immortals - because they shouldn't die, but when they do - these scenes need extra special care. These scenes needed to honor the characters legacy, and also be resolved! This is something done beautifully at first, but later with strange 'fake deaths' and scenes that actually disgrace core characters.

One of the arguments for these scenes is honoring the original source material. I'm not familiar with the content of the graphic novels, but to me it seemed like the writers of TWD TV were always dancing around the source material - using certain content here and there, dismissing it at times, and just flat inventing material - including main characters. My point being, saying this show had to do something because of source material seems more like a fan excuse than any valid critique.

One quality I forgave until my love turned to hate was the weapon worship. No TV show in the history of the medium has directly inspired people to go out and buy more guns, crossbows, swords and knives than TWD. At first this really worked - one sees the actual utility of weapons in a chaotic, vicious anarchy. But as TWD devolved - it became a big NRA commercial, actually trying to sell weapons due to the threat of other people whom you must protect yourself from. Mind you, this is a minor critique of the show as a whole, and sounds a bit conspiratorial. Writers are human and have political values themselves - this may be just some of that coming through in their scripts. One thing that frustrates me as a fan of action media in general, is how guns are so seldom attributed their true destructive potential - how bullets can actually tear through cars, furniture, walls, and ricochet off surfaces- how loud guns are, especially indoors - how messy a gunshot wound can be - how difficult a gun is to handle - how easy mistakes can be made, especially under stressful situations. TWD is guilty of mistreating gun related content in all these ways - instead making guns into a mystical solution to any problem, as opposed to examining their dual/double edged sword nature.

The decent of TWD is probably the result of many factors. Writers forgot why the show was originally successful - evolution of the characters for one. It seems the release of the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead spread the writing and production talent too thin - making for one terrible new TV show and reducing the quality of the original. Also as a show gains success, the stars demand more and more of the budget which can also erode overall production quality. But for a show that captured so many, and clearly is so successful, if any of this is true? That is bad management of success, and poor reallocation of recourses into what actually matters: quality writing, quality directing, and quality production through all phases.

First 3-4 seasons? 9/10 Since then? 4/10

Lang ya bang

television at it's absolute finest
I rank Nirvana in Fire up with the best of the best: writing, camera, production - it's a damn near flawless presentation of story and ideas. While sets and costuming are noteworthy, it's amazing how few locations Nirvana in Fire uses through 50+ episodes. All the power is in the dialog, characters and acting. Individuals make choices for an empire, and generally the dialog itself has multiple levels of meaning - some apparent to the characters, some aimed directly at the viewer. It's media that makes you think, made all the more rewarding due to a high level of entertainment.


Lost in Space

Lost in Analysis
Any review (for anything) that starts with comments like: "this show is bad" "the acting is bad", "the writing is bad", etc... is generally worthless. Even if accurate! In this case? Many reviews seem to be competition for who can say the most generic phrases without actually doing any analysis at all.

It is frustrating. So a lot of opinionated people don't like this show? OK... but this is a show one needs to watch for oneself. I strongly recommend not coming at Lost in Space with expectation or desired outcomes. Another reviewer asked, "What do these people actually want?" A great question! Because after one episode, season one, and people are already convinced they know what this show is all about? A frustrating, useless approach to a review. Star Trek: The Next Generation had a rough first season outside of maybe 3 episodes (including the premier, that isn't that great) - It goes on to become one the all time greatest, and most popular science fiction TV shows all time, and is the reason that DS9 and Voyager exist. How about we pump the breaks a little bit, give this show and it's characters a chance to develop before such certain claims at its futility?

I like this show so far - through three episodes. Lost in Space is built on entertainment. What does that mean? It starts with top shelf production, solid cast, and the opening of a long adventure in a new frontier. A lot of questions are asked, which will (I assume) be answered in future episodes.

The Robinson's - both main characters and family are the focus of this show. Scientist mom, career military dad and smart kids. They all need to be at their best in dire circumstances (space exploration gone horribly wrong), and face their own weaknesses in doing so.

The episodes are long! Almost an hour apiece, there is a lot of content. Through flashbacks and parallel action the viewer learns about the Robinson's, their journey, the fate of Earth, and side characters that (I assume) will all meet up in the future.

The first episode is all about facing the impossible - or at least facing down challenges in which the odds are heavily stacked against the Robinson's. Up against such conditions, how does one survive? Intelligence, luck, miracle?

Really, Lost in Space is very strait forward in terms of how the story is presented. I will admit that at times I wanted the characters or story to just get on with it, as opposed to obvious attempts at building suspense. But ultimately, I was still fascinated with the families fate, and really routed for them to succeed. This means I must be somewhat invested in the characters! That is a very good thing.

Will, the youngest child, is especially interesting. He's a very nice mix of actor and performance - and may really be the best character in this show. I think this is tactical, and his casting was probably carefully scrutinized. I read a review or two about the unlikable nature of the cast - and I flat disagree. These characters will develop with the story, and I'm sure that the play of fairness, entitlement and dashed hopes will be fully explored.

For a first season, I feel Lost in Space is off to a fine start and I'm excited to watch through these episodes. Regardless of all these IMDb experts, I feel this show will be a fine addition to the Netflix library. It will get a lot views. If I were 12-15 years old, I'd probably love this show - so perhaps all these mediaphile adults need to watch some Breaking Bad reruns or keep waiting for Game of Thrones to come back on, because the plethora of meaningless bad reviews? Shows a lot of expectation and desire to watch something else.

Not me! I'm entertained! 8/10 in the early going.


Science Fantasy Blender
I would never say this is a bad movie. There is a ton of merit including solid production, good acting... interesting? Sure.

I haven't read the book, so I can't speak to the interpretation of the film makers - however, one aspect of this film really is a red flag. The monster. This is Gene Wolfe's Alzabo from his seminal 'Book of the New Sun'. Not just what the monster is, but also how it behaves, and the dialog about it's behavior. It's a strait up lift. Except Gene Wolfe's monster, scenario and outcome is better in every single way. The monster does provide one of the best scenes in the movie - a very graphic attack upon the main characters.

If one has read the Light trilogy by M John Harrison? There's the shimmer - except more defined, interesting and entertaining.

Blindsight by Peter Watts? This book is 2/3's a discussion on trying to investigate and understand something truly alien, either an entity, their realm and how this is interpreted by our limited minds and senses.

A lot of the ideas in Blindsight are also in Stanislaw Lem's Solaris & knowing Gene Wolfe through his work and research? He likely visualized his alzabo monster beginning with some mythological beast from classic literature. What I'm saying is everyone draws content from somewhere, but as an artist? Gotta make it your own, take ownership and avoid an obvious theft of material.

All three of these books are way more interesting and deep than this movie, which is common (almost to the point of being a rule). Not to mention the source material may well be completely different and better as well.

To drop my cynicism, if this movie is genuinely enjoyed? I strongly recommend reading some of the above science fiction/science fantasy.

But to get back to my film critique, the last kick to the groin would be the films 'Usual Suspect' ending that throws the entire movie into doubt. Clearly we, the viewers are supposed to believe the main character is in fact a duplicate, like her romantic interest - which could only be true if she lied during her debriefing. The movie is a visualization of her debriefing. So what really is the truth? I'm not a fan of this loose, foggy take on content.

I believe there are some questions regarding how gender is handled in this film, but I'm not going down that rabbit hole... well maybe a little ways. The end of the film hints at the event making a change. Clearly the destination in the film, the lighthouse, is a womb metaphor, from which a new version of humanity, one man, one woman, emerge. I do wish the film would have gotten more into how peoples thoughts were altered by the alien environment, and the importance of conscious thought in resolving the situation. This content is implied at best - absent at worst.

One could certainly argue that all the unanswered questions fit - that the event feeds into the mystery, feeds into the conclusion. I just think there is a better approach to convey these ideas. M John Harrison, Peter Watts might agree.

well made (mysterious) movie with copy and paste ideas, 6/10


Special effects wizardry...
...does not make this move anything more than a detailed exhibition in depravity. This is an ugly film, full on sinister content. I'm not saying this is necessarily bad - Terrifier has a kind of directness and purity that I'm sure many slasher/horror fans appreciate. I just need a bit more than violence for it's own sake. I like a villain with a bit of a back story - any story - any story at all? No questions are answered - who, what, when, where, why? Again, I'm sure that someone could tell me why none of this matters with regarding this particular movie, and what Terrifier actually does. Which is?

Horrific violence done with incredible, practical effects. These effects must be seen to be understood. They are effects that make you feel emotion, horror and true discomfort. Can't remember the media reference: book, movie, TV show - but the villain talked about the space between when someone is alive, and when they become an inanimate thing. This can happen in infinite ways, and the writer director of this movie prefers intense physical trauma. His ability to first introduce an actor, then show a brutal death with gory effects, then show the corpse being mutilated? This movie is at the top of that list! No small feat to be sure. I can't even imagine the work that goes into these scenes, and how to make it work in the editing room after the fact. These scenes are the work of a master in this specific area - practical fangora style effects. This guy needs more jobs in Big Budget films!

But that is my opinion, and what I feel Terrifier brings to the table in terms of merit. But also, in my opinion, get this guy a script please! His direction isn't bad! I thought the actors had a kind of believable nature with their dialog and actions. His effect work is jaw dropping (maybe jaw removing?). But this movie has very little content, and almost zero point or depth of meaning. For some, this approach may be admirable, even ideal - but I want a more rounded film with something to actually say.

great effects/shallow content: 6 out of 10

Murder, Inc.

I watched this movie for one reason...
And it delivered! Peter Falk as a contract mob killer plays his role to perfection, and is reason alone to watch this movie.

First is the very surprising brutality on display. The violence doesn't need blood and gore to be both horrific and convincing. The direction of these scenes is also very brave. There isn't any stylization or glorification - just rapid action that surprises the viewer as much as the victims. Obviously all part of the performance, but you get my point.

Rarely does a villain so clearly evil remain interesting throughout a film, but there is something to Falk's performance that is constantly fascinating. His look, the way he carries himself, and the constant self-serving, unapologetic dialog all come together to define a deeply disturbed criminal. He's also completely egotistical and self centered, and often questions those around him who don't acquiesce to his singular world view. It is an absolute clinic on how to successfully play an iconic villain, and it wouldn't surprise me if actors like Joe Pesci studied this movie in preparation for similar roles. There's an ease and comfort level to every moment he's on camera, and one wonders where the actor begins and the character ends.

It is quite possible Peter didn't want to play characters like this moving on, but it is a shame. I always been a fan of his presence in anything, but watching this movie, I wonder what other dark roles he could have wowed audiences.

What about the movie itself? It's not bad. There are very dated montage sequences with a voiceover that fill major gaps in the plot, and only one or two other performances come close to Falk's. There are some priceless exchanges of dialog between characters though - any time anyone stands up to Falk, and the inevitable explosive reactions are wildly entertaining. The movie is built on a historical facts, and this film represents an interesting era of killers for hire in the world of organized crime.

I absolutely loved the look of this movie. The black and white film stock seems perfect for the content, and never was I upset with any camera placement or move - which speaks to great direction, and a camera man who understood the content and never gets in the way of performances or story.

My appreciation exists between pretty narrow margins, but I can't stress enough: if your a fan of crime drama's, villainous performances or Peter Falk - this is an absolute must watch.

completely satisfied 7 out of 10

Black Mirror: USS Callister
Episode 1, Season 4

Metaphorical Onion
Why an onion? The layers of meaning? No, because if you've played as many video games as I have, and understand the implications of this episode, crying is definitely on the table.

For real though - this episode works on many levels. Just on the surface, this episode treads in two different realities: one being the not so distant future, the other a fantasy realm built on the legacy of a classic and familiar science fiction TV show. Even within these two areas there is a ton of nuance. The characters from reality participate in the fantasy realm, bringing their identities along - but also being split from their original lives. Sound confusing? It actually isn't, because the writing and storytelling is so clear, and unfolds with strait continuity.

Beneath the surface is a ton of psychology involving relationships, artificial realities, and a useful projection of the often toxic nature of video game power trips/delusional grandeur. As an avid gamer myself, I completely understand the addiction of interactive entertainment. The more the technology progresses, and the more immersive it becomes, the easier a person can become consumed by the new reality. And why not? If it is fun? Inviting? Rewarding? With little to no actual consequences?

This episode is fun, entertaining, and could be seen as a warning - or at least a story with a moral. It is how we approach things, how we choose to interact? Lowest common denominator? Insensitive? Selfish? Or try to be better, smarter, artistic and wonderful?

It's no accident how this episode was cast, written, organized and unfolds. If you have been part of a rough work environment you can relate. There is incredible play within the dual realities, character behaviors, moments of humanity - when they happen, when they don't. Anyone who plays video games will notice a lot of minutia, cleverly placed - again that all feeds into the content.

And my take on this episode may (admittedly) be a bit focused on that which I know. Other people will gravitate to other strong characteristics of this episode. It's both that good, and that complicated.

This episode is a modern masterpiece, and an instant classic. Not all the content is fun to digest, but I feel the more people who see this the better, whether the information sinks in subliminally or through critical thought.

Bravo - 10/10


Badass movie
Yes, Bright borrows from a lot of earlier source material. Namely? Earlier David Ayer's films, Cast a Deadly Spell & Alien Nation. Yes, your likely going so see some plot points coming, especially if you've watched a few movies in your life.

And you know what? Who cares? This movie is strait up bad ass, just like so much of David Ayer's work. If you like his movies (Training day, Street Kings, End of Watch), your going to like this movie. If you like odd mixes of genre, like buddy cop, fantasy prophesy, action movies? Yes!!!

Bright has an incredible look: dirt, grime, blood, seedy environments, stylized lighting, weather, and *urban fashion. This movie is rarely at rest, and the constant motion is always spiced with background minutia and surprising set design detail. The sound is also in your face with a constant mix of music, gunfire and caustic dialog. Very obnoxious film making combined with artistic flair - very entertaining.

For the record, Bright is about two modern day SoCal cops - one human, one orc. Obviously this requires a completely different reality, one that combines fantasy with the world we know. The two main characters are reluctant allies for a variety of reasons that are revealed as the movie unfolds. Both are swept into a wash of dirty cops, gang violence, a sprawling FBI investigation and a overpowered group of elves bent on very evil deeds. But? Their evil is dependent on an object that is at the center of the entire story, something Will Smith and Joel Edgerton's characters obtain and choose to protect. Bright is an action adventure with a lot of disparate moving parts.

This is a very well thought out movie. Its sets up an interesting set of rules based upon fantasy races (fairies, orcs, elves, and humans) combined with a contemporary urban flair. The world building is spectacular, and this isn't the only details.

Just using the transition of day to night for content, plus weather? It's super smart, useful and adds to the already interesting content. I feel like the performances improved as the movie unfolds, which makes me wonder if a lot of these scenes were filmed in the order we see them (likely not - this style isn't often used for obvious practical reasons). Probably, as a viewer, I just slipped into how this movie is presented, but I do wonder.

I'd like to see more! The world is built, might as well make use of it!

fun, entertaining 8/10 *one must never forget the urban fashion

Jean-Claude Van Johnson

JCVD at his absolute finest
Jean-Claude Van Johnson is a revelation: visionary conflict between good and evil, with nothing less than the entire world on the line. Sound silly? It is - it is very, very silly. Yet, hidden in the comedy is an incredibly well written show that creates it's own rule book, that somehow follows a certain logic created by all the martial arts action movies it spoofs.

The best farce is indistinguishable from that which it makes fun of - and this is exactly what we have here. I really think the viewer needs at least a smattering of JCVD movies in their mental rolodex to fully appreciate the antics. JCVD classics include Bloodsport, Lionheart, Cyborg, Timecop, The Quest, Maximum Risk (his best overall action movie?), Double Team & Knock Off. There's obviously more, but these are my highlighted movies. Knock Off really is a delineating film, after which JC had a public fall from grace, and most of his films since then have been mid budget at best. There is one exception, 2008's JCVD that I have to believe is part of the reason this amazing TV show exists. That film is far more serious, but does a lot of play on fiction vs reality in JC's life, and certainly has it's comical moments. It's also a movie that shows VD's acting chops - I mean, who knew that his skill as an actor would improve as he aged?

Just like the writing, JCVD's acting in this show is subtly amazing! He plays all the scenes to near perfection, and the moments he replicates screams or poses from old films are absolute comic gold. This also speaks to the direction, and like everything else, there is a clear vision that everyone here bought into.

So what is this show? VD stars as himself, aged and retired - but we learn he has a lost love. In trying to rekindle that flame, we also learn that JC is a retired special operative for a secret organization where he is known simply as Johnson. In order to chase his flame, he comes out of retirement - both to make a movie, and to be a real life hero. But nothing in this show is anywhere near reality. It is all heavily stylized, with everything leaning toward humor. Between all the flashbacks, dream sequences, fight scenes and random action - we take an unpredictable journey with JCVD and the rest of the cast. Which is excellent, and worth mentioning that while VD is the star, this show belongs to both he and Kat Foster, almost in equal measure. Her character is also fully explored, with her own individual scenes - that are just as funny as any part of this show. They are a good team, and really play well off each other.

Obviously this show was made for a fan like me - I love JCVD. I love his movies. Many may be unintentional comedies: Bloodsport, The Quest, Knock Off. Here the comedy is very intentional, but comes at the viewer in much the same way as his old movies. I also feel with JC's legacy, he deserves this project, success, and hopefully a second season. He has aged pretty well, and his acting is at an all time high! I'm not saying he's De Niro or anything, but atm I'd way rather see JC's next project than De Niro's!

With comic brilliance, clever writing, solid production, a great cast and ultimately an amazing first season - what can I say? 10/10

The Dark Tower

disgrace with redeeming elements
The good: Casting! This movie could have been great with this cast! Without question the best part of this movie. As a result, the performances are good, and this is across the board, so can't really crush the director for this broken interpretation of a Stephen King classic. This movie also had a huge budget... so many pieces in place to succeed. But that is not what happened.

The beauty of King's work is how easy his stories are to translate to film. He writes in a visual style. His characters are generally not too complicated - very nuanced, yes - but in a King book the depth comes from his incredible story telling. His books are also often incredibly long, which (when he stays on track) give his characters depth through experience. The reader learns about the characters by what they do.

The first book of The Dark Tower series is one of King's most interesting books, and to turn it to film is eminently achievable, especially with this budget. These are the names of the screenwriters, i.e., who to blame: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkne, Anders Thomas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel. This movie needed four people to mangle what was already good?

The writers stole the characters and a few ideas from King's book, then fabricated about 80% of the rest with their own insipid ideas. What were they thinking? Who is this movie for? Fans of the books and King are immediately insulted. People who know nothing of the Gunslinger books may be mildly entertained. At best, this is a slightly entertaining action movie with a smattering of science fiction and horror elements.

If a screen writers job (adapted screenplay) is to capture the essence of the original material, this project is an absolute failure. But even in terms of character building, Roland begins this movie as a man, but by the end is some sort of agent from a Matrix movie, complete with superhuman abilities. The beauty of Roland from the books is his flawed humanity. True he's a bad ass gunslinger with a lifetime of killing experience and training, but he is just a man. He's also the main character, not the boy.

I could continue on this very obvious path, but I believe my point has been made. Its an ok movie in terms of production, with an great cast. The script has very little relation to the original material, and though the dialog is competent (no small thing) - the story told is what it is: a jumble of ideas with very little meaning or cohesion.

As a fan of the books I should score this a 1, but I've rounded way up for certain film making elements to an average 5/10

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

IMDB SW fans... are you kidding me?
Bottom line SW:TLJ is the best Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi - and it isn't even close. The writing/directing is light years ahead of the last 5 SW films - probably closest to being on par with the quality of Return of the Jedi, just without the ewoks.

This is space opera/science fantasy at its finest - at least in the medium of film.

So why my (?) title? Because it appears the majority of reviews coming in on IMDB, opening night, are opinion generated discharges of hate. It's baffling. It's like people went in with some expectation, and when this wasn't a ESB the reboot? They stopped watching.

I can never prove to anyone the quality of this film. I can just tell you what I saw. Two dimensional characters from The Force Awakens suddenly have depth, humanity and.... real dialog! At its worst TLJ can be a little heavy handed with direct/obvious lines, but often this is very intentional and a lot of humor is derived from these moments.

The visuals are absolute top shelf and somehow functional effects at the same time. The effects are used strictly for story telling purposes. This movie is actually pretty spare, with every moment mattering - this hasn't happened in a SW film since ESB!

Fanaticism should never inhibit someone from appreciating fine film making.

In time this review will be absolutely buried and forgotten, and hopefully so will most of these initial low reviews. Time will treat this film very kindly.

SW fan who is also a big fan of this movie: 9 out of 10

Made in Abyss

cross Studio Ghibli style art and the video game Dark Souls...
Throw in some Etrian Odyssey and you get a rough idea of what Made in Abyss might be.

But those may be a bit obscure as references so what does all that mean? This isn't a Studio Ghibli work, but it has a real organic, curvilinear art style that could be described as a child like look that really fits the characters who are all very young. If you know Ghibli art, you know how detail oriented it is, and how it's style really lends itself to fantasy based environments.

There isn't a more mature environment that the one presented in Dark Souls - it's all about brutal enemies in dark surroundings with no mercy given to those who participate. And this is where Made in Abyss really separates itself from the look, and truly becomes a mature story of life, love and survival. There is a quest, and one of the main characters is especially well suited to travel and survive in the brutal realm revealed as this anime unfolds.

Lastly would be Etrian Odyssey, which is another video game where you build a team and descend into a subterranean realm, each level down more challenging (and mysterious) than the level above. This is exactly like the realm in Made in Abyss - though in typical (manga) anime fashion, the abyss is far more complex than that presented in Etrian Odyssey. It has a life blood of its own, effects those in its grasp, and even can make literal changes in the characters to descend too far, or spent too much time in the harsh/unpredictable realm.

The two main characters are interesting and become more interesting as the story progresses. One character is augmented, has very obvious mysterious qualities, but the other main character may have a more bizarre background still! And added to this she appears completely normal.

But nothing is ordinary here. It's like some far distant lost civilization that lives on the edge of a great trove of artifacts. The explores descend the abyss for relics, but also out of wonder lust, and desire to understand and exploit its power.

I love this anime. The environment is complicated, but revealed in ways that serves the story and characters. The characters aren't just likable - their lovable, and to see them suffer hurts in ways that is difficult to explain. It is worth noting that this season has a lot of build up, complete with excellent foreshadowing. The season really picks up in the last 5 episodes, the last one being double length. I completely approve of the design. The build up establishes so many important story element and characters, all needed to really give the final third of the season such emotional intensity.

Even incomplete (the Manga is still being written... but there is enough content for 12 more episodes!) Made in Abyss is astonishing. It taps into so many things I love: exploration, science fantasy, a quest, a mysterious and dangerous environment with beautiful characters who support each other.

Made in Abyss is high art - 10/10

Looking for Love

they don't make them like they used to...
As I've gotten older, I've begun to realize that the saying, 'not like it used to be' is a fallacy with regard to music and visual media. The truth is there has always been a ton of bad work, it's just that the lens of history whittles out the chaff. What's left? The great, the good, and at times the really really bad. One has to really look for the average to just below average films - generally to fill out some niche of fanaticism regarding an actor or director.

Why watch this movie? The Jonny Carson scene is amazing. First, he plays himself, but actually acts and performs - and that youthful look! This scene should be a clinic on how you direct a talk show host. This scene is generally butchered in more recent films.

The film stock - my goodness these colors! I will never understand why this saturated film look is lost. The astonishing primary colors and shining eyes of the performers - this movie has a absolute visual glow.

Acting is awful. And some of the casting - listening to these shrieking voices will make you scramble for the volume remote just to end the pain. And yet...

The numbers (music performances) are pretty good, certainly entertaining - and back to my original point; this isn't a good movie, but it so much better than contemporary bad films. Films that actually bring nothing to the table.

Wow, maybe they don't make them like they used to?

intentionally over rated 6/10


nothing can prepare the viewer for this journey
If I were to choose a key word to describe this show it would be evolution. On so many levels, the characters evolve as the story matures - even the content of the story is about evolving technology.

Another revolving theme would be pursuit of dreams at all cost, while up against great challenges. The science fiction show Farscape had a similar episode formula. Basically in Farscape a series of impossible challenges are presented in the first 10 minutes. The rest of the episode is spent solving these issues, generally with lives on the line. But are lives on the line? Even in that show that I love, the threat of real harm is rarely felt - just awesome entertainment!

But here in StarUp? The threats are very real. The stakes are super high. Choices effect multiple characters. And harsh, harsh scenes allow for tremendous acting opportunities. The cast is up for it! Incredible, breath taking scenes - at least one every two episodes, will reward and punish viewers. It's a Breaking Bad kinda punish though - so artistic and well executed, can't help but continue, because? The characters are so compelling!

StarUp is about a small cast of characters who are trying to get a tech business off the ground and make it viable. One character is the brains, one businessman the other muscle - but they all desire financial success for various reasons. Knowing this hardly can set the viewer up for a truly diverse cast from widely different backgrounds - all with various forms of personal baggage. Nor can one guess at the losses along the way of the journey, each blow the team takes making success more important and worth striving for. Lastly - this show does violence as well as any movie or TV show has to date. Weapons are assigned their extreme destructive potential. Violence is presented how it would actually occur -awkward, shocking - unbelievable scenes that are as stunning as they are captivating. This isn't three rich kids in the bay making an idea a reality. StartUp is a struggle for life for all the major characters.

Humor is present where it should be, as well as the whole gambit of emotions. StartUp wouldn't work without the victories either. It isn't just a slog of difficulties - I'd say StartUp is way less punishing than a Breaking Bad in general, but the hard hitting scenes pack just as much emotional punch.

My one critique is the dialog heavy nature of the show at times feels like it may be, perhaps... dragging on a bit. I guarantee that this is my opinion. I feel this way because the pacing and (all) the dialog may be needed for the show to work. These scenes set the groundwork and anticipation for the more explosive action sequences. At times the suspense is overwhelming - the viewer can really feel the big scenes coming.

StartUp has vision! The tech ideas are awesome, and like Mr. Robot - some of the choices in this show effect the entire landscape of the environment - i.e. world changing stuff. TV with big ideas is easy to like, especially if the presentation, story and characters are solid.

Lastly, as a viewer you'll know pretty quick if this is a show to invest yourself in. If the characters aren't liked a few episodes in? Maybe not your show. I was curious about the casting in the first couple episodes, but after 4 or 5? I couldn't see anyone else in these roles. All the characters are a nice mix of the performer + the writers initial abstraction.

So much to recommend! And the online format by which this exists? Pretty incredible! StartUp is a TV show well worth supporting, and seasoned viewers will be rewarded.


Baby Driver

got a recommendation for this...
So I was completely surprised by the main character who's about as interesting as a wet rag or a 2x4.

Baby (the name of the main character) happens to be amazing at driving cars - for no explained reason. He also loves music, which is the best part of this movie. In fact - I would argue the slick presentation and music is what sold many audience members. Producers put a ton of talent behind and around the camera. What do we have here? Another big budget film with directionless writing and shallow characters who follow obvious motivations. Well, obvious until the end of the movie - that just gets erratically stupid.

Casting isn't bad nor is the dialog (neither is great), but this film falls flat on its face about 45 minutes in, when the audience is supposed to become interested in Baby's every day life. It is a tough sell - he's not interesting. One could call Baby Driver cliché, which it is: boy, girl, bad people and leverage against the hero - But the jobs (a huge part of the movie) have this nebulous, crime for the sake of crime pointlessness. Large chunks of this movie have zero reason or character motivations to occur - it's like everyone in this movie does stuff only because the script writers said so... that isn't a good thing! and makes this film feel truly artificial - when I'm guessing that was not the intention.

Ultimately though - it's the characters that sink this film. They are boring and undeveloped. This leaves no one to root for. Maybe just follow the action?

Sadly, Baby Driver isn't purely kinetic/action oriented enough to succeed on this merit alone (like a John Wick). In this case an uber stylized film fails for lack of commitment to a clear vision. Or... Baby Driver lacks successful execution of a music/action/crime/coming of age/love story/car driver movie.

If you want a way better movie along these lines watch Drive (2011). If you want a fully fleshed out, mentally flawed hero watch The Accountant. If you want a pure action movie involving fighting, gunplay and driving watch The Raid II ;). Funny though, both the Raid movies do a better job with their characters, story and action - just not the music or slick Hollywood presentation.

OK action movie that suffers from another average (at best) script 6/10

Twin Peaks: Part 8
Episode 8, Season 1

surrealistic masterpiece
This episode stands proudly along side the best of Lynch's work. It is a surrealistic masterpiece, and the singular vision of a brilliant director.

Like so much of Lynch's work, a discussion of why it is good becomes very difficult to break down. The elaborate descriptions required to fully convey complex imagery and events? Immediately loses the feeling, emotion, impact of a given scene. Lynch has said in interviews that achieving a feeling is often his greatest goal when directing a scene. I'm sure it's a whole lot more complex than just getting the feeling right, but watching his work, one can quickly see how much importance is placed in the areas of emotions and feelings.

Especially weirdness, creepiness and horror! There is more than a little unsettling imagery in this episode. Even the odd stuff that isn't necessarily evil comes off completely alien to any normal perspective. And yet there is real content here - continuing the story, but like the first episode of the second season of the original Twin Peaks (May the Giant Be With You) - this is no mere single episode. It's the work of a master.

The musical guest really feels at home in this episode, and I appreciated the way their song was presented.

My favorite episode (through 14) in one of my all time favorite shows.

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