Friday, February 9, 2018

Black Mirror Season 3 review

S3E1: Nosedive - Hayley Atwell really carries this episode and her reactions feel natural and unforced. With only seeing her in the Captain America movies, I didn't realize how talented and attractive she actually is. Domhnall Gleeson plays a good robot. I wonder if he gave Alicia Vikander tips when they were in "Ex Machina" together. The end was super heartbreaking. Everything ends up in the attic.

S3E2: Playtest - I really enjoyed this episode.  I appreciated the main character's motivation to remember and experience as much as he could in the memory of his father who died of Alzheimer's.  Unfortunately, he didn't value his mind enough and it ended up poorly for him.  I liked that the episode kept you guessing and it was almost inside my head as a viewer as if it was aware what I was thinking would happen next save for the twists at the end.

S2E3: Shut Up and Dance - This episode was pretty good and also heartbreaking -- testing the limits of what a person would do to keep their secrets private only to have them released anyway by the hackers and internet trolls that exist in the world.  It was great seeing Jerome Flynn aka Bronn from Game of Thrones outside of his normal role.  I really like him as an actor.

S2E4: San Junipero - This episode was crafted pretty well as there was no sign of any technology until the end.  The episode teased us with a "one week later" card throughout which was revealed towards the end when everything was revealed.  It was actually the first episode that had somewhat of a happy ending for the characters involved as it essentially was a digital heaven that was created.  I liked this episode, but I didn't love it.  It dragged a little too long until the reveal and I wanted more information about the main characters.

S2E5:  Men Against Fire - This episode was pretty predictable for me.  I guessed early on that they were augmenting their soldiers to make them better.  I thought it was just their sight, but it makes sense that the program inside of them would also have to affect what they smell and hear as well.  This episode was just okay.

S2E6:  Hated in the Nation - It felt like this season finale was trying to top the season 2 finale, but I feel it missed the mark a bit.  I liked that the episode acknowledged a very real current problem - the bee population and how doomed we are as a society if bees become extinct.  In this story-line, the government is funding the bee project, so big brother installed some backdoor software to help them spy on their citizens.  They claimed it reduced crime and maybe it did, but it allowed a hacker/fellow creator of the project to access the bees for his own purpose -- to play a game that ultimately turned out poorly for those targeted and those playing it. 

I'll mention two negatives - 1) the swarm of bees special effect looked a little cheesy at times, and 2) I wasn't a huge fan of how the episode ended.  There was a glimmer of hope in catching the hacker, but I didn't think that was needed concerning a little twist/lie about one of the British agents.  I think it would have been sweet irony if instead they used  a bee to track him down and then leave it open ended if it was assigned to kill him or not.

The Future of Star Wars

1) Rebels is starting in 10 days and it'll be over the beginning of March.  We have Han Solo coming out this May, and then we don't have Episode 9 coming out until December 20, 2019.  The comic stories are limping along.  I'm not sure what's coming out novel-wise.  So it appears we have somewhat of a Star Wars "drought" coming between June 2018 and December 2019.  Is this good?  Is this bad?  

2) We have Rian Johnson doing his own trilogy.  No release schedule, not filming currently, and he's still thinking about ideas according to an article from January 16th.  So I'm guessing he's in the writing phase now, will start casting/auditioning/etc later this year and start filming next year for a May 2020 release date.

3)  We have David Benioff and D.B. Weiss doing "a new series of Star Wars films." after GOT is over.  GOT is rumored to air April 2019 according to Maisie Williams.  So they probably won't start writing/thinking about ideas for their films until early-mid 2019.  Will their first movie come out in 2020 as well?  Maybe December 2020?  Two Star Wars films a year from two different teams?  Will they stagger the releases to allow the ILM team to do the post production special effects work or will they expand the team? Johnson 2020, 2022, 2024 -- Benioff/Weiss 2021, 2023, 2025?  

Final questions and thoughts...
4) What's Filoni working on? [Probably a new show, but when in the timeline and with what characters is anyone's guess at this point.]
5) Do we really want an Obi-wan movie?  [I don't.  The comic stories involving him all take place on Tatooine and are not very exciting.  Leave it as is.  He's watching over Luke and doesn't leave the planet to go on an adventure that we need to see.]
6) Will we see Episode 10-12?  [maybe in 2026, 2028, 2030]

Now that Disney has made their 4 billion back, it's experiment time.  Kennedy likes working with Johnson so we'll see how that gamble pays off in the future.  Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to GOT, in my opinion, it's the best show on television when it's new and I think Benioff and Weiss have a lot of potential to bring us some good stories.  Sure, they don't have Martin's source material, but they have the Lucasfilm Story Group and plenty of "Legends" material to cherry pick from and make their own.  So in my opinion, this is "fun" time for Disney and when "fun" time is over, they'll go back to the core Skywalker trilogy if there are any Skywalkers left by the end of IX.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Black Mirror Season 2 review

S2E1: Be Right Back - Hayley Atwell really carries this episode and her reactions feel natural and unforced. With only seeing her in the Captain America movies, I didn't realize how talented and attractive she actually is. Domhnall Gleeson plays a good robot. I wonder if he gave Alicia Vikander tips when they were in "Ex Machina" together. The end was super heartbreaking. Everything ends up in the attic.

S2E2: White Bear - I really enjoyed this episode as I thought it was going to be a social commentary on people's first reaction to film instead of helping someone in need, but it turned out to be way more twisted.  I liked that the episode made me care about the main character and then wanted me to hate her when new information was learned concerning what she actually had done and then going along with what her punishment was - a virtual hell.

S2E3: The Waldo Moment - As I'm not a huge fan of politics, I couldn't 100% get behind this episode, but I did get what it was trying to get across.  To me, it felt a little too far fetched.  I actually cared more about the relationships, or lack there of, between the main male and female characters as that felt more real then everyone blindly following the rants of an obscene /comedic cartoon character.

S2E4: White Christmas - Excellent episode from start to finish.  Jon Hamm totally owns this episode and while his character wins, he also loses.  It's heartbreaking for all characters involved, but the story is so well done that I ended up admiring it.  This is definitely my favorite episode of the series thus far.  And while all the episodes are self contained stories, it probably helps to watch episode 103 before watching this one.

Black Mirror Season 1 review

S1E1 - The National Anthem: I really enjoyed this episode, but I wonder what the intent of the kidnapper was. I thought it was to humiliate the PM to enact change in the government, but the only negative consequence appeared to be his relationship with his wife. I did like the use of technology and how real it felt that once something is out there, it's very difficult to keep a lid on it. Small gripe - the guy that was in bed all day, they kept cutting to him so I thought he was more involved that it appeared. I wonder if that was intentional to throw us off as he didn't do anything else or add to the story in any way. Was the story that griping to spend 8 hours without getting out of bed?

S1E2- Fifteen Million Merits: I enjoyed this episode as well. The concept reminded me of the movie "In Time". I wonder what happens if you run out of merits. Also, I didn't understand why the other bike people didn't really talk to each other. I guess what is there to talk about, right? I understood the "jerk" character, but the other characters didn't really add a whole lot, so it was up to Daniel Kaluuya to carry the story, which he did. I never watched Downton Abbey, so I didn't know who the other actress was until I looked it up afterwards. She did a good job as well. When Daniel Kaluuya's character smashed the glass in his room, did he get in trouble? Did it cost him merits to fix? I was expecting that he'd get punished. There was no show of organization, it just was what it was. The characters made a joke about generically engineering the food, so I'm surprised they didn't mention or allude to "Compliance" being put into their food as well. Gripes aside, I thought the overall message was pretty powerful. I'm surprised Daniel Kaluuya's character could live with himself selling out. I kind of expected him to end his life at the end. Also, was their a pornography channel for the women?

S1E3 - The Entire History of You: A really cool concept, but it felt wasted that the writers decided to focus on a failing marriage. How about a doctor failing at a surgery and having to replay it in his mind to try to figure out what went wrong so he doesn't lose any other patients? They established a main character who couldn't land a job, but all of sudden he's Sherlock Holmes with his grain and puts together the pieces to figure out what was going on. My favorite scene was when they were making love, but actually just watching videos of themselves while being in a catatonic state. It felt like the writers envisioned that powerful scene/comment on society and built the episode from there. Out of the first season, this was the weakest I thought, but only because the concept felt slightly wasted on a weaker plot.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [2017] spoiler review

Previously on Star Wars...

...Starkiller Base has been destroyed.  Everyone waived a happy goodbye to Rey, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 as they made their way to find Luke Skywalker in the Millennium Falcon.  As Rey stood pensively in front of Luke, calling him back to adventure, our journey temporary ended before the next chapter could begin.

In the "The Last Jedi", while Rey was making her way to Luke's location, the EMPIRE, I mean the First Order decided to STRIKE BACK back which is what they pretty much do during the entirety of the movie.  I don't understand while the First Order pursues the last of the Resistance in open space until they run out of gas.  That's it.  That's what seriously happens until the final act.

So what happens between full tank and empty?

1)  Storyline A:  Rey and Luke

Luke doesn’t want to train Rey but she sticks around anyway because where else is she going to go. Luke finally decides to train her by teaching her three lessons. The lessons include why the Jedi must end. He makes some compelling arguments but it becomes a little hard to follow because at the same time Rey is going through her own personal journey within herself, telepathically speaking with Kylo Ren, and sometimes plot from the other storylines get in the way.

Eventually, Rey leaves the island to confront Kylo Ren to save him from the dark side because Luke will not. Yoda shows up in puppet force ghost form which looks pretty horrible special-effects wise.  Yoda make some valid points and Luke decides to participate.

Luke is somehow able to project himself across the galaxy to confront his nephew and former student whom he essentially created him accidentally through fear.   Ultimately the confrontation is just a distraction so the last of the Resistance can get away and Luke becomes one with the Force.

2)  Storyline B:  Finn and Rose

These two have an adventure on Canto Bight, the casino planet, where they happen to meet a guy (Benicio Del Toro) that can break in and out of places who helps them and then betrays them. Finn fights Captain Phasma and then she dies.  So her character ends up being as meaningless as her appearance in The Force Awakens.

3)  Storyline C:  The Resistance 

Leia, Poe and what's left of the Resistance are on the Resistance cruiser a.k.a. the Raddus as I mentioned earlier going from full to empty.  While on the ship, we are treated to a mutiny between newly appointed leader Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and Poe Dameron.  Thankfully Poe gets a lot more screen-time, but he appears to have learned none of his lessons from in the comic book, but that all takes place before TFA, so I guess he just forgets.  I will give him a pass as he's just as impatient as the audience wondering what the hell is going on as they wait for death while the gas runs out.

Overall,  I know I've mentioned a lot of negatives, but there were some positive things that happened as well if you read between the lines.  At the end of the day, the light met the dark and I left the theater liking it, but not loving it.  I'm sure it'll grow on me just like TFA did after multiple watches.

For now, I'll give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thoughts before seeing The Last Jedi

12/14/2017  9:00 AM

Thoughts 10 hours before seeing "The Last Jedi" -

"The Force Awakens" had a huge task ahead of itself two years ago.  Not only did it have to recapture the Star Wars magic of the original trilogy, but it had to bring in a fresh story that felt familiar but new.  Monetarily, it succeeded in spades, but after the wonder wore off, the criticism really began.

First and foremost, the original trilogy is far from perfect, but using it as our baseline, it was what we wanted as an audience.  We were actually given what we wanted - so much in fact that "The Force Awakens" felt very close to "A New Hope" where many claimed it to be just a rehash.  I saw the similarities, but at its core, "The Force Awakens" was about Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, and Poe and the movie just so happens to have Han, Leia, and Luke in it.

Remember those guys?  Han, Leia, and Luke?  Yeah, it's the ones we care about.  And what did we get?  Han was killed, Luke was in it at the end for two minutes and says nothing, and Leia was pretty much sidelined as she hadn't acted in years and was very rusty.

So the focus was thrust upon the new characters and they did a decent job of keeping us intrigued, but it wasn't the story we wanted.  We wanted to see what our original trilogy heroes and what they have been up to all these years since "Return of the Jedi."  Yoda told Luke to pass on what he had learned.  Leia and Han were together and peace appeared to have been restored to the galaxy.  So what happened next -- a huge time gap happened.

Unfortunately, due to real life, the actors who play the ironic original trilogy characters aren't young anymore and they represent the old generation.  Disney decided that it was time for a new one.  Disney even removed the number VII from all marketing materials and VIII isn't present anywhere that I've seen.  This is a continuation of the Skywalker story, but it's almost as if they aren't even acknowledging it publicly.

So fast forward to present day and "The Last Jedi" is mere hours from being experienced for the first time.  With everything in the back of my mind, I need to check myself.  This story will be about Rey, Finn, Kylo, Poe, and new comer Rose.  This story will happen to have Luke and Leia in it.  Will Han even be mentioned or lamented?  As I sit with my thoughts I am worried.  I'm worried that we won't get what we wanted again.  I'm sure there will be similarities with "The Last Jedi" when compared to "Empire" and "Jedi" which one can clearly do using footage from the trailers, but is this going to be a story I will care about?  Once the wonder wears off and the dust settles, how will I feel?

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Star Wars Opening Day Reminiscing 2017

ANH - May 25, 1977;  I was not yet born.
ESB - May 21, 1980;  Again, I was not born, but my parents said they saw it so I had a womb with a view :)
ROTJ - May 25, 1983;  I was 2 years old, so my parents didn't take me because I was too young (and probably wouldn't sit still).
TPM - I didn't see it at midnight, but I did go three times on Wednesday, May 19, 1999 at 10AM by myself, 4PM with my girlfriend and her friends, and 10PM with my best friend, Ernest at the Loews Cineplex, Stroud Mall, Stroudsburg, PA.  I was in high school at the time, and I was 18 so I could sign myself out with a parental note.  My mom wrote me a note for the front office to excuse me for a dentist appointment, but I saw no dentist at 10AM that day.
AOTC - I saw it @ midnight on May 16, 2002 with five or six college friends at the Regal Cinema 14, Easton PA.
ROTS - I saw it with my brother and sister @ midnight on May 18, 2005 at the Cinemark 20, Moosic, PA.  My brother and I waited in line for 8 hours and we were probably 10th or so in line. My sister showed up later to reap the benefits.
TFA - Because of theaters selling early and site crashes, I was only able to get non reserved seats, so my brother, sister-in-law, wife, (and Ernest who came later) waited in line 5 hours at the UA Main St Theatre 6, Manayunk, PA. I packed sandwiches and bottle water for us while we waited on December 17, 2015 for the 7PM showing.
R1 - I won tickets to see it Wednesday, December 14, 2016 @ UA King of Prussia 16 and saw it with Ernest.  My wife, Ernest's wife, my brother and sister in law saw it on opening day December 15, 2016 at AMC in Plymouth Meeting, PA - reserved seats, no wait!
TLJ - Reserved seats have been purchased for wife and Ernest at Movie Tavern, Exton, PA @ 7PM for Thursday December 14, 2017.

After compiling and reminiscing, I realized that I have not seen any Star Wars movies in the same theater opening night. It's always been a different theater.  Funny.  I wonder where I'll see Solo.