THROWBACK REVIEW: Treasure Planet (2002)

When pirates explore the final frontier…

As a child, it is accurate to say that I had a bit of a pirate phase. You know, we all have those weird phases where things are just so cool, and they couldn’t in any way be bad. You know, then you grow up and realize that pirates were criminals who did some of the lowest of the low acts out there, and still do it to this day. But “Arrrgh”, am I right? Regardless, as a kid, when I needed a little pirate adventure in me, there was really only one place to go: the classic Treasure Island tale. This story was EVERYWHERE in my life. I watched it repeatedly. I owned Muppet Treasure Island, a 1987 Burbank Films Australia animated special of the story, I’d seen the 1950 Disney adaptation, I even saw a Wishbone episode of the story. And I’m sure I’m missing a few other adaptations I saw!

What’s the story, Wishbone?

Really, the story was an absolute classic. If my child self needed an adventure, there was no better place for me for the longest time than on the high seas with Treasure Island. You might say that I looked up to Jim Hawkins in a lot of ways. I wanted to break out as he did, I wanted to go on his adventures, I wanted to be in his shoes, and he made me so very happy a lot of the time. So with all this Treasure Island stuff in my life, it was only natural that eventually, I’d find myself watching the 2002 Disney steam-punk adaptation of the same story in Treasure Planet. Needless to say that I absolutely loved it back then, and love it now.

The film opens up with Judge Claude Frollo narrating a holo-book about the notorious Captain Flint, who would loot ships for that precious pirate booty, and we get introduced to young Jim Hawkins, who is absolutely adorable as a child. A few years later, we see him grown up into probably one of my only big problems of the film. I do kinda scoff at how they very much make Jim Hawkins a bit of a bad boy here. I mean, granted, it makes some sense in context with the story, keyword being some, but it still very much feels like a trophy move that never really feels earned. But I guess they gotta show us some of that sweet sweet animation, and making him a Marty McFly Tony Hawk hybrid gives them an opportunity to do just that.

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Unsurprisingly, Hawkins has grown up in this state and has a reputation of being a bit of a delinquent. And it’s because of a change in the story that I actually really kinda like. In the original stories of Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins lives with his mother in an inn. No different here. But in the classic, his father has been dead a few years. Here, Jim’s dad is still alive, but Jim has no idea really where he is, or even who he was, since he left at a young age, never came back, and this has had an impact on Jim’s life. While again, I kinda scoff at the bad boy aspect that results in this change, it opens the door for some character development of the character that is honestly, pretty absent in the original tale. But we’ll eat there soon.

If you know the story, you’ll know that a stranger appears at the inn, a fellow by the name of Billy Bones, and how this movie approaches it admittedly makes me scratch my head. The other stories give us some time to get to know Billy Bones. We see him interact quite a bit with Jim Hawkins and we eat some backstory into who he is and why he’s in hiding. Here… he’s barely alive five minutes. Granted, Billy Bones dies in every story, but not nearly this quick. This makes his reveal of him having a map to Flint’s treasure, and his warning of Long John Silver feel not nearly as impactful in the long run. Billy Bones here feels more like a footnote, when he feels like an actual character in pretty much every other rendition of this story I can think of.

Billy Bones might not be much of a character, but they do a wonderful job fleshing out pretty much everybody else.

Oh well, we know where this goes, Jim gets a map (or golden orb here and by some sort of luck, he eats it open to reveal said map), and he and his friend Dr. Doppler fund an expedition to see out the legendary titular Treasure Planet that the map supposedly reveals. And it’s here where I gotta praise a couple things. Firstly, I gotta praise the designs of this crew. Just look at some of these crew members and you can tell that there was a lot of fun in creating these guys. It’s this movie, and movies like Lilo and Stitc that pretty much have me convinced that Disney knows how to have fun with their alien designs, and with some of the Star Wars suf I’ve seen in their new movies, I don’t think they’ve lost their touch.

A positively trustworthy crew.

I think easily my favorite of the crew has to be little Morph who doesn’t have much of a role, but goddammit, the little glob of cute makes me laugh almost every time he’s onscreen. What a brilliant idea for ‘Long’ John Silver’s pet. The shapeshifting mimicking glob is just… perfect. They could have easily given Silver just some bird-alien pet Resembling a parrot, complete with the mimicking trait, but can you tell me it would be anywhere as charming as this pink glob??? The answer is no. No it wouldn’t. Not even close.

Legit one of the funniest moments of the movie.

Also holy shit, I cannot go on anymore without praising this animation. It doesn’t take long for it to establish itself as something absolutely awesome in this department, and you can probably thank the steampunk aesthetic of the film for that. I’m normally not one to really fall head over heals for this kind of story or setting, but goddamn does this story absolutely sell itself, and make it absolutely hard not to just get drawn in by literally everything going on in this story. Everything from the fun ship designs, to the animation of the characters, to the action out in space, to ‘Long’ John Silver’s cybernetics is animated in a way that just makes me wanna shout “WHOAH!” It can be breathtaking at times.

JUST LOOK AT THIS ANIMATION!

Granted there are a few things in the animation department that I particularly don’t care for, but then again, it falls more under just things I personally don’t care for. The ‘gross’ factor if you wanna call it that is kinda here, and I don’t care for it. Thankfully, it’s not a huge presence in the film, but it’s still kinda distracting. The two instances that kinda come to mind are a few instances where they animate drool, not exactly something I ever really liked, and an alien that communicates literally with flatulence. Because fart sounds I guess. I don’t wanna spend anymore time talking about this.

I’ve heard some people say they really don’t care for the steampunk aesthetic of the film, and if you’re gonna Neil deGrasse Tyson the film, then yeah, you might need to skip this one since they throw space physics out the window the entire film. I mean granted, there are a few times they have fun with gravity and whatnot, but I mean, there’s no air dome, so everyone just breathes in space pretty much. No explanation really, but it’s just one of those things you don’t really question. Like space whales (which are also present in this film…. and contribute to the gross factor).

Okay, seriously, who can NOT be wowed by these visuals?!

This film does a great job of really having us get to know these characters. As much as I love films like Muppet Treasure Island, and other Treasure Island adaptations, I cannot deny that they really struggle with getting me to care about anyone other than Jim Hawkins. You really don’t get to know or care about the other characters in these movies like Captain Smollett, Mr. Arrow, Ben Gunn, etc… They always feel like they’re in the background. Even ‘Long’ John Silver (who will get his own paragraph) never really felt like a huge character in these adaptations. This movie remedies this in so many ways. Each character feels impactful to the story, and you care about what becomes of them. Granted, it’s not perfect, and I mean… obvious baddies are obvious baddies, but you can tell that they really tried to bring each and every character here to life.

For instance, Captain Amelia and Doppler, they develop a bit of a relationship, and while it isn’t flawlessly executed, I still care about them both far more than I would any other character in an adaptation. Kermit the Frog plays a good Captain Smollett, but he’s still Kermit the Frog in a captain’s outfit. Ben Gunn here might be a bit over the top and even a title annoying, but he’s more memorable than any other iteration of the character I can remember. Mr. Arrow… good God this character is great, and he’s actually a bit of a drastic turn from other renditions of the character. In the original, he really doesn’t contribute much of anything to the story, and is killed off rather quickly after Silver gets him drunk and throws him overboard. Here, Mr. Arrow feels competent, and feels like an actual first officer. And when he is eventually killed in a scene that actually REALLY disturbed me when I first saw it, it feels that much more impactful. I cannot thank this film enough for giving me a reason to care about any of these people!

Seriously, who WOULDN’T find this disturbing?

And then there’s ‘Long’ John Silver. Good God, where do I begin?

While always a major character of the story, ‘Long’ John Silver really never felt as fully developed as he should have likely been in this story. This ranges to pretty much every Treasure Island adaptation I have ever seen. His transition from leading a group of bloodthirsty pirates on a mutiny against the crew, to suddenly saving Jim from their hands always felt like it came out of nowhere. And this is finally rectified here, and it’s the fact that this film chose to have Jim’s father leave at an early age that makes the relationship between Hawkins and Silver work so damn well. While you can tell that Hawkins is at first very wary of Silver, due to the fact that he was warned about an unnamed cyborg, like Hawkins is warned of the sailor with a missing leg, the time the two spend together really develops into something special, and I love how this film shows us just how much of a struggle it is for Silver, who is walking this fine line between leading a group of bloodthirsty pirates, and being a straight up father-figure for Jim. Some of the dialogue exchanges these two have will leave me warm inside each and every time.

I don’t think there’s a better father-son relationship shown in any Disney movie.

And it’s this wonderful development between the two that makes the conflicts the two have with each other that much better throughout the film! When Hawkins overhears their plans to mutiny, you can telll there’s genuine hurt in his face when just a scene or two ago, Silver was offering him genuine comfort over the death of Mr. Arrow when he was blaming himself over the incident! You can tell when Hawkins and the others are escaping the ship during the mutiny, that there is genuine conflict in Silver when he has a CLEAR SHOT that he could have taken at Hawkins. There is actual emotion being put in play between both of these characters and it just elevates this film to new levels. Each time they have a conflict, it feels real, and I care about both characters. Beforehand, ‘Long’ John SIlver was just a cool character in my eyes because he was a pirate, and kid me loved pirates.

It’s this bond the two share that I feel really glues this entire story together, and it is this bond the two of them share that makes me wonder just what the hell people watched back in 2002 that made them describe this movie as a film with weaker characterizations than usual. What the hell were you watching??? The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing that they do with this that I really don’t care about is that they use a pretty forgettable song to kinda help illustrate how Hawkins lacked a father figure in his life, and the song plays in a montage of the two growing closer in this retrospect. I just find it kinda silly that they used that approach to flesh out the characters. It’s one of the reasons I personally don’t care too much for the film Titan A.E., due to its constant barrage of 90’s pop/rock selections. Thankfully, this film limits itself to just one of these musical selections.

As far as the adventure itself is concerned, it’s still a lot of fun. While again, there are a few things that might rub off the wrong way for me personally, such as Ben Gunn’s personality, and whatnot, by the time things really get rolling in this film, it is impossible to be bored or not invested. You can tell that the people behind this had a whole lot of fun with each and every sequence shown in this movie, from the supernova storm, to the mutiny, to hunting, and locating Flint’s Trove of Treasure. And they do this without losing a beat of making us care about each character here. Not only with Hawkins and Silver, but with Doppler and Amelia, who develop a very fun relationship with one another after she’s severely injured.

We even get an awesome Star Trek reference.

I’m not sure how much I enjoy the action packed climax of the story, but I suppose it’s fun enough, even if I find Jim’s hurry-rigged hoverboard a bit of a stretch. I do really find the use of the map in the scene in finding the loot, and escaping the self-destruction of the planet to be a whole lot of fun. And again… it just really amplifies the bond between both Silver and Hawkins. And not to be too spoiler-y, but it makes their separation that much better of a scene.

Seeing the conclusion of their bond really hits home every time. Not only is it heartwarming to see Hawkins willingly let Silver escape when it’s likely that Silver will face charges when they return to port, but seeing Silver look at Hawkins the way a father would to any child of theirs is just…. oh it gets you right in the feels.

Right in the goddamn feels…

When all is said and done, Treasure Planet doesn’t get nearly enough love that it deserves as far as Treasure Island adaptations are concerned, but I am happy to see that lately, the trend has gone in its favor. However, I cannot help but disagree when I hear some say that this one should get a live-action remake. Not only do I feel like the steampunk setting would dramatically lose its charm in a live-action medium, but it honestly doesn’t feel like it’s in dire need of one. In a world that is absolutely full of Treasure Island adaptations, making this unique entry in that a live-action I feel takes away the charm it offers to the story. That and you know they’d focus more on the pretty setting than the actual character development… This is one I really think they need to leave alone.

Treasure Planet is far from perfect. It offers some sequences I find pretty dumb, its action at times maybe feels a bit tacked on, and its musical score really leaves much more to be desired, but I’d be lying if I said that this isn’t a personal favorite adaptation of the classic story. Not only for the reasons I’ve talked about but so much more. It makes me laugh, it touches the heart, this film wins me over every time I put it on no matter what. Even though I have fully moved on from pirates. I don’t know if I jus watched it at the right time, or whatnot, but as far as underrated Disney films are concerned, this sits right near the top alongside the likes of films like The Hunchback of Norte Dame, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (another great steampunk DIsney movie that’s probably only as charming as it is because of its awesome animation). If needed, I’d highly recommend experiencing it for yourself, as it has held up remarkably well.

Eat your heart out, Orion Syndicate!

Well, this review wasn’t two weeks late or anything. With all this talk of the coronavirus going around right now, I might be watching a few films to try and make light of the situation in the near future. I guess it really just depends on whether or not I find myself quarantined to my house. Time will tell. Stay healthy everyone.

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Unfinished Business)

Why couldn’t the rest of the prequels be this damn good?

The Clone Wars has just finished its first major arc of the show so far with “Unfinished Business”, and I absolutely loved it. This is the strength of this show right here. It might not have the most jaw-dropping start, but by the time it wraps up, a good chunk of the time you will be beyond satisfied. That’s exactly what this arc has done. Provided a solid beginning, middle, and end to a story I wasn’t sure I’d like all that much, and yet here we are.

So fair warning, I’ll be hitting major spoiler territory here, so if you haven’t seen the episode, then go watch the episode! It’s really good, why are you still here, just go watch the-

Anyway, so we pick up pretty much immediately where we left off. Last week, with Echo now back behind Republic lines, and eager to help the Republic take Anaxes. But with his recent experience with the Confederacy, and the fact that he still has confederate technology in him… there are questions on where his true loyalties lie. Echo however persists that he can assist them, and can turn the algorithms that he used with the Confederacy against the Droid Army and give Anaxes to the Republic. So it’s pretty obvious that we’re going to be formally smacking down a few of my theories, particularly theories regarding that Echo might be a sleeper agent for the Confederacy, or that he’d betray them. None of those things happen. But I concede that I was never good at predicting what would happen in any show most of the time.

Give me the smackdown, Ross!

It’s not the Smackdown Hammer, but close enough.

We do however get some more conflict between Echo and the Clones, which can play into the first episode of this little Story Arc, when we were first introduced to the Bad Batch, and saw the issues of trust being tested between everyone. In some ways, this can be pretty decent in execution, but in other ways, it really kinda feels forced. It’s like the episode is trying to spell it out that the clones don’t all trust Echo, because he’s a Confederate Cyborg now. I guess I should just be thankful that none of the conflict feels pointless. And thankfully, for as center an issue as this is in the episode, it doesn’t take up a whole lot of screen time.

What does take up a whole lot of screen time is well worth watching!

Mace Windu kicks ass.

This feels like the first action-oriented episode of this final season of The Clone Wars, and it absolutely positively delivers in every meaning of the word. Not only is the action in this episode 100% fun, it feels like everything that happens here matters, and it feels like an amazing send off to a group of characters I personally have grown to really like. I’m actually kinda sad to see the Bad Batch leave. Not only do they kick ass and take names in this episode, not only do they make me laugh, not only do they even get genuinely heartwarming towards the end, I almost feel like I know them as well as I know clones like Rex or Fives. This episode is a well deserved last big hurrah to the Bad Batch.

Echo’s arc even left me guessing. As I said, not only was I wrong on my predictions regarding him, but I’m actually surprised that bringing him back actually felt impactful. I’m usually a guy who tends to criticize a show that kills off a character, only to bring them back. It makes death lose impact. It’s one of the big reasons I really appreciate Star Trek: Picard right now. Echo had a really good send-off in Season 3, and had I seen the unfinished Rees dealing with Echo here before watching these episodes… I likely would have rolled my eyes and said to myself, “Maybe it’s best this show got cancelled when it did.” But not only did they make me care about Echo again here, they really brought the character to life in a new manner. The conflicts that were introduced felt real, his struggles felt good, and by the time the episode ends, I was left pleasantly surprised in my expectations. I 100% expected Echo to die in this episode, and he didn’t. Him getting an invite to join the Bad Batch might be a borderline happy-sad moment of the series. I really applaud them for making this arc matter in its handling of Echo.

Get writing, shippers!

But…. let’s talk about what everyone wants to talk about. It was only a matter of time before we saw it, and this episode finally delivers on some fucking awesome, intimidating, badass Anakin Dark Side Slippery Slope material once again.

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Anakin’s role in this episode is absolutely jaw-dropping. When he confronts Admiral Trench in this episode, I could immediately see where this was going. And holy shit is it ever so satisfying. It’s this kind of thing that makes me say that I’m very happy this show doesn’t go the Prequel route of just having lightsabers dismember every single limb out there. It feels dumb after a while. So when we see Anakin confront Trench in this episode, with a mindset of “I’m a Jedi, but I’m still gonna intimidate the shit out of you”, him severing those IMC’s (even if they are mechanical) feels impactful. This show doesn’t do this very often, but each and every time it has done it, it feels impactful. Tell me Obi-wan cutting off the arm of Savage Opress in Season 5 is not as impactful as Dooku getting his hands cut off by Anakin in Episode 3. Is it perfectly executed here? No, but it still feels impactful.

Anakin absolutely steals the damn show in this scene, and as predictable as it might be (I mean… you don’t see Admiral Trench, as awesome as he is in episode three, so…), seeing Anakin’s interrogation of him, before eventually straight up killing him? And giving zero fucks while doing it? You can tell that Anakin just took a giant leap towards his eventual fall to the Dark Side of the Force. Dammit, why is this show so damn good at showing this???

Anakin lets Wrecker send the episode off with a literal bang.

There’s honestly very little this episode does wrong in terms of wrapping everything up. Not only am I very excited now for what’s to come in the rest of this series, but if there was ever any doubt in any viewer that this show wouldn’t have that same magic it once did back in the day, that doubt should be as dead as Admiral Trench. This Arc feels like it’s just an amazing taste of things to come, especially since we know that some very heavy material is coming involving Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano. I’m about as excited to see where this series goes as I am to see this debut season of Picard wrap up. The sky is the limit for this show’s final season.

If you want a score for this first arc of the show, I’ll go ahead and give it a nice solid eight out of ten score, but will reserve official verdicts until this show ends. But I really don’t want it to end.

I’m gonna miss you glorious bastards…

Top Ten Best Moments of Star Trek: Discovery (So Far)

Black alert!

So if you haven’t gotten the general hint yet, I do love me some Star Trek. It doesn’t matter what era, what producer, what visual aesthetic, I don’t think I’ve analyzed any other franchise quite as closely, or as frequently as Star Trek. My father raised me on episodes from the Original Series, to Deep Space Nine, and I am a proud owner of all 13 films, and own the complete series of each show, except the Animated Series. And yes, this includes both seasons of the new Star Trek: Discovery.

While I will admit that Discovery has work to do in its series, I am very much enjoying it, and am eagerly awaiting its third season. I tend to roll my eyes at the appropriately named fandom menace in its views of the show, and find myself disagreeing with a lot of other fans when they complain about certain… well, rather trivial things. I understand that Discovery or even Picard isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, and is likely challenging a to of viewers of Star Trek, but I very much applaud them for challenging the average Trek viewer in their shows, and I find it absolutely dumbfounding that so many say that this show doesn’t feel like Star Trek when it is absolutely full of moments that scream elements of this universe.

Well, I’m highlighting the best moments of the show so far. Yeah we’re still enjoying Picard for a few more weeks, but we have a lot to look forward to in Season 3 of Discovery if you ask me, and to help build a little anticipation for it, here’s what I believe are the ten absolute best moments of the show so far.

A quick note, I won’t be including moments from the Short Treks series in this list, and it’s fairly safe to say that I will be talking spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen this show yet, you might wanna look away.

10. Burnham and Spock Play Chess (Project Daedalus)

“All right, Michael. Let’s play chess.”

One of the more gutsy moves of the show’s second season was bringing in Spock, and showcasing the strained relationship that both he and Michael share with one another as estranged foster siblings. This is a move that could have backfired so easily, and yet, I cannot help but feel like they executed it with precision and care that really makes both of these characters stand out in so many ways. I’m not saying their relationship was absolutely flawless (there were a few moments, I thought were not properly earned), but I saw these two, and I saw a very believable relationship between the two, and I think it really came to life in this scene here.

The chess match between the two is a true highlight of character tension and drama between these two, and not only does it perfectly highlight the years of frustration and bitterness the two have held to one another all this time, but it really showcases the acting chops of Ethan Peck, who absolutely owns the role in this show. It is true that no one will ever truly replace Nimoy, but to say that Peck did a disservice to the role is absolute bonkers. Not only does he pull off the emotionless stoic persona of the character remarkably well, be he also brings to life a new side of the character that I can totally see in a younger side of Spock, and he works so well with the role. Their entire game, and exchange of dialogue leave me on the edge of my seat every time from start to finish.

9. Lorca Reveals the Spore Drive (Context Is for Kings)

“We are creating a new way to fly.”

One of the biggest areas of controversy when it comes to Discovery is its use of the ship’s spore drive, with many saying it feels too advanced for the time period, unscientific, or even straight up ripping off some concept from an unfinished video game (a lawsuit that is full of nonsense I might add). I have yet to hear a single complaint about the spore drive that I sympathize with, and the way that Gabriel Lorca shows it to us is actually really intriguing. When we first see Lorca, we are introduced to a battle-scarred war torn man who many thought he was hiding something. And granted he was, but if you ask me, he played his part really well, especially since this scene is as good as it is. This is a scene in which Michael Burnham is still a convict, and doubting not only herself, but Lorca’s intentions. And the way he wins her over to show her just what the Discovery is doing is just… really good.

Not only is it visually appealing in how he demonstrates the idea and concept of the Spore Drive, but how he tells her that they aren’t creating a weapon, but a new propulsion system just feels very Starfleet. Now granted, it can be said that he does end up weaponizing the spore drive, and again, that big secret of him not exactly being who he says he is factors heavily into how he behaves and how he acts, but still, you take away everything that is happening in that moment, stick this in a typical episode of TNG or TOS even, and this would fit right in. And his assurance of Michael Burnham also feels right at home in more ways than one, but if I go too far here, I’ll be digging into major spoilers. All that needs to be said is that our first glimpse into just what the spore drive is meant to be? It’s all Star Trek.

8. The Klingons and Kelpiens Join the Fight Against Control (Such Sweet Sorrow Pt. II)

“Sorry it took us a while to get here, Captain.”

The season two finale of Discovery is full of awesome moments, but I don’t think there’s one moment that sends chills down my neck quite as much in this episode as the moment when the Kelpiens and Klingons join in the fight against Control, joining the battle alongside the Discovery and the Enterprise. While it is heartwarming to see Saru’s sister, Siranna, and the rest of the Kelpiens fly into this battle, especially since they’re flying Ba’ul fighters; ships belonging to a race that persecuted them for hundreds of years, as it shows that the two races have likely reached a truce or understanding of one another, it’s really the Klingons who steal the show here.

When the Klingon cleave ship decloaks and just rams into two of Control’s ships, I tend to lose it. Seriously, I really hope we haven’t seen the last of the cleave ships. Those things are awesome. Why wouldn’t the Klingons fly what are essentially giant bat’leths in space? And it’s just awesome to see how the Klingon Empire, despite remaining on hostile terms with the Federation, will recognize that cooperation in light of a bigger threat is what matters. There’s not much more to say here. It’s just a really badass moment of the finale of season two. Nothing more, nothing less.

7. The Universal Translator Malfunctions (An Obol for Charon)

“Am I the only one who bothered to learn a foreign language?”

It’s moments like this that baffle me when I hear people say that this show feels creatively bland or unoriginal. “An Obol for Charon” was already one of my personal favorite episodes of Discovery so far (if not my all-time favorite so far), but moments like this feel so unappreciated. Star Trek has always danced around the language barrier by using the universal translator. And while we’ve had episodes that wonderfully dissect how understanding communication is important (such as TNG’s “Darmok”), we’d never seen the Universal Translator go haywire, until now.

After a mysterious sphere sends a mysterious transmission to the Discovery, we get one of the funniest, and one of the most clever malfunctions I’ve ever seen in all Star Trek, as people begin speaking different languages all over the ship. It’s a near perfect representation of how I feel this kind of thing would play out, making Pike straight up compare it to the Tower of Babel, fantastic wordplay. And it’s just a fantastic concept put in motion.

6. Ensign Tilly Becomes Captain Killy (Despite Yourself)

Their strength is painted rust. It’s a facade. But you have the strength of an entire crew that believes in you. Fortify yourself with our faith in you. That’s what a real captain does.

The Mirror Universe Arc of the debut season was another point on controversy for some, but was another thing I absolutely loved about the debut season. I can’t say that any other mirror universe episode of Star Trek really intrigues me as much as “Despite Yourself” did. And it is absolutely full of awesome moments, particularly when Ensign Tilly is forced out of her comfort bubble to impersonate her mirror counterpart as Captain of the ISS Discovery. The pep talk that Michael Burnham gives her in how she doesn’t have to be afraid of her role is really kinda heartwarming, especially considering the fact that Michael Burnham has been helping her train for command this season.

And when she’s actually in the command chair? She demands respect as any mirror universe captain would. Some of her lines Are disturbingly fantastic as I would expect them to be. She plays the part remarkably well, and it makes me think that one day, she’ll be just as good a captain… just not nearly as evil. For her first time in a backwards universe? She really pulls it off.

5. Saru Reunites with Siranna (The Sound of Thunder)

“So different, and yet…”

Saru has a pretty major development arc in the second season of the show, and it’s arguably one of the best arcs of the season. We’ll talk a bit about how it starts later on, but it results in a conclusion that is absolutely jaw-dropping, as we see him wrestle with a newfound truth about his people, and his oath to uphold Starfleet principles, including the Prime Directive. The reason this is such a big deal is because his people, the Kelpiens fall under the Prime Directive, and Saru’s status with Starfleet is little more than a special exception.

But when the circumstances come into play where he is once more put back in touch with his people, the scene in which he is reunited with his sister Siranna is exceptionally well done. Siranna’s reaction not only to seeing him again, but meeting Michael Burnham is absolutely fantastic. Her reactions to everything she is hearing, such as the principles of the universal translator, to the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of life forms in the galaxy is absolutely fantastic. Even the moment she compares her own hand to that of Burnham to see the similarities and differences. And the way she simply asks at the end of this scene if humans drink tea? It’s the perfect bit of Star Trek in an exceptional scene.

4. Reno’s Advice to Dr. Culber (Through the Valley of the Shadows)

Yeah, it’s funny. People like us always find people like them. And thank God.

One of the absolute best additions of the second season was the character Jett Reno, portrayed magnificently by stand-up comedian, Tig Notaro. Whenever this character was onscreen, you knew there was some comedy coming your way, but while Tig’s dry delivery and snark attitude was good for a well-earned laugh most of the time, she proved that she was just as capable of giving us a very heartfelt scene, like this one here, in which she confronts Dr. Hugh Culber, who if you follow the series, likely know that he was killed, and brought back to life, and found himself in a bit of an identity crisis this season, which led to him separating himself from his partner in Paul Stamets.

The talk that both she and Culber have is impossible not to smile at as she brings a bit of that snark dry delivery to the table (she even references some of her own stand-up material in this conversation!), before recollecting on her own previous message. Not only do I greatly applaud this scene for fleshing out the personal lives of two characters who are a member of the LGBTQ community, but I can’t help but feel like wanting to get a little emotional when Reno describes her deceased partner, and just how much she obviously meant to her. You can tell that her experiences greatly impact Dr. Culber. Her parting words to him are as blunt and to the point as you can imagine, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a scene that can make you laugh, make you cry, and for all the right reasons.

3. Burnham Gives Georgiou’s Telescope to Saru (Choose Your Pain)

“You should have the privilege to see the universe The way she did.”

Season one’s best moment undoubtedly comes in the form of some absolutely phenomenal character development between both Michael Burnham, and Commander Saru, who for a good chunk of the season are at odds with each other over the events of the pilot episodes. As Michael Burnham is responsible for the death of their former captain, Philippa Georgiou, Saru sees her as a threat to the crew of Discovery, and resents her for a lot of very valid reasons. When he’s forced to take command of Discovery during this episode when Captain Lorca goes missing, he finds himself doubting himself since he never got the chance to learn how to take such a role, and had hoped to learn from Georgiou as Burnham did. This conflict results in some absolutely stellar conflicts between the two in this episode (Doug Jones is quickly becoming one of the best actors of the franchise if we’re being honest with each other), but it also results in the moment that shows that the two are ready to move forward together, and rekindle their friendship.

When the two have a heart-to-heart in the last act, and Saru finallly admits how he holds Burnham in envy over the fact that he never got the chance to serve as First Officer to Georgiou, Burnham really steps up as his friend, and assures him that everything he did in his time as acting Captain would have made Georgious proud. The discussion they have is enough to get me smiling, but it’s the very end of this scene that gets to me, in which Burnham gives Saru the telescope that Georgiou had left to Burnham in her last will and testament. This little gesture I believe is what truly puts them both on the road to healing in their relationship as fellow Starfleet Officers, and friends. And Saru’s last order as acting Captain, for her to go and save the Tardigrade (long story)? Just as heartwarming.

2. Saru’s Vahar’ai (An Obol for Charon)

“I am sorry. I know how hard this is for you. How many people you’ve already lost…”

There’s a reason I said “Obol for Charon” was among my favorite episodes of the show, and this moment is one of the big reasons why. This moment was so powerful that I actually ranked this episode number four in a list concerning Star Trek’s saddest episodes out there. And yeah, when it was happening, I was fighting tears, because I straight up though we were going to lose Saru, who is arguably one of the best, if not the best character in Discovery right now. Throughout the episode, Saru is fighting a terminal illness, unique to Kelpiens , called Vahar’ai; a disease which lets a Kelpien know that they are ready to die. And towards the end of the episode, when Saru’s weakened body is on the verge of shutdown, he asks Burnham to kill him.

Now I said in the last entry here that both he and Burnham have some incredible development together throughout the run of these two seasons, and it’s this moment where that development shines in full glory when they truly realize just how much the two mean to each other. Seeing Burnham struggle to find the strength to do what Saru asks, really feels real and is an emotional curveball that I tear up at every single time. But thank God she hesitates because it’s this hesitation that gives Saru a major revelation about the true nature of Vahar’ai. And it’s this moment that sets in motion his inner struggle with the knowledge of this truth of Vahar’ai, and his dedication to the Prime Directive in the episodes ahead. Seeing his disturbing realization that everything he thought about life was nothing more than a lie is something straight out of Plato’s Cave allegory, and sets in motion some fantastic developments down the road ahead. But regardless, it’s this moment that really stands out in it all.

1. Captain Pike Seals His Fate (Through the Valley of the Shadows)

“A warning, Captain. The present is a veil between anticipation, and horror. Lift the veil, and madness may follow.”

I could probably fill this list with moments in how awesome Captain Pike is in the second season of Discovery, but if I had to choose one moment, it would easily be this one, and I don’t think there’s much room for argument in it. So long story short, the Discovery is in need of a time crystal to power a specific suit that can travel through time and space, and Pike visits some Klingon Monks in isolation who guard these crystals. Not only does this set in motion some really fun time concepts for this scene alone, but it of course reveals the eventual fate that Captain Pike will face in life. If you’ve seen the TOS episode, “The Menagerie”, you’d know that eventually, Pike will end up in an accident that will forever change his life, and cripple him. Before this episode, it always felt like such a poor send off to a character who was originally meant to be what Captain Kirk was of TOS. Here? Pike finally gets some well needed and well deserved vindication for the events to come.

Upon touching the crystal, he is of course taken to the moment in his life where he will be forever crippled and changed. He comes face to face with his forever crippled form, housed in a wheelchair, unable to even speak, and Pike’s reaction to it all is powerful in and of itself, but it’s the moments that follow that really cement this moment at the number one spot. The monk who guides him informs him that it is very much possible for him to walk away from this fate, but that if he takes the crystal, it will eventually happen. Pike has a choice here to save himself, and you can tell that for a moment, he contemplates it. The thing is, he knows that if he walks away, he will likely doom everything around him to extinction, and it’s this self-sacrifice that he willingly makes as he takes the crystal that makes me shout at CBS to give him a damn show already. And how he carries this bit of information throughout the rest of the show is just as impactful. This willful notion of him accepting what will eventually happen to him I truly believe puts him along the same level of Picard as a Starfleet Captain, and I will defend that claim to the grave. It turns what originally was a senseless tragedy into a very meaningful triumph, and it will likely be very tough to top in my eyes as far as Discovery’s best moments in the show are concerned.

We’ll just have to wait until Season 3.

And there you have it. The ten moments I feel are the best of Star Trek: Discovery so far. There were a lot I really wish I could have talked about, but these are well earned if you ask me. You’re free to let me know about moments I maybe missed that you yourself enjoyed down below, and as always, thanks for reading.

Live Long, and Prosper.

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (On the Wings of Keeradaks)

I’m so happy my optimism in this series is paying off.

Three episodes in, and the future is looking bright in this final season of The Clone Wars. In a nutshell, I’m beginning to care about each character more and more, and the stories being told are getting better, or at least this one is. I’m still unsure if this final season will be the usual mini-arcs that the show is known for, or if it will be one big long arc. We shall see in the coming weeks. Regardless, everything going on right now? Thumbs up.

When last we left our heroes…

This episode picks up pretty much immediately where the previous episode left off, where we see Tech of the Bad Batch working fast in order to properly disconnect Echo from the Techno Union machine he’s hooked into. If you remember, Echo has been cybernetically changed, and it made me make a lot of dumb Star Trek jokes in the previous review. I’ll try to lay off those here. We pick up immediately right after this happens, we’re in some fun Clone War action and the “Advanced” Battle Droids of the Techno Union are making Imperial Stormtroopers look like crack shots (I always have to chuckle when the battle droids are standing like ten feet away from our heroes, guns blazing, and STILL missing.

When they are successful in disconnecting Echo, Echo gives the absolute best line of the entire episode. “Rex… I got a big headache.” Dammit, this line should give me tears, because despite not having seen this character since Season 3, it very much brings back the old jabber the clones would often give through the entire show, and it fits so damn well here. 10/10 on that line.

What also gets a 10/10 is that watching this, I began to realize just how much I was starting to like all these characters, particularly the Bad Batch. Admittedly when they first came onscreen, I wasn’t entirely sure I would care that much for them, but they are genuinely becoming pretty god characters, and I do hope they aren’t just dropped after this arc. There was actually a moment here in the episode where I had to ask myself if Wrecker was about to die, and I was actually hoping he wouldn’t die. That only tells me that I am really starting to like these characters.

Wrecker die? I’m Anakin Skywalker, and I won’t let Wrecker die!

Our heroes escape the Techno Union, and Wat Tambor survives an explosion that likely should have killed him (but he can’t die until Episode III so count your blessings I guess), and we get a sequence that genuinely made me uncomfortable to watch. There’s just something about a sequence in which our heroes balance on a pipe, miles in the sky, that makes me shiver. Maybe I have a slight fear of heights when watching these. I don’t know what it is, but I was once again convinced someone was going to die.

All I want is a railing!

This might ironically lead me to one of my bigger criticisms of the episode… they probably should have had someone die. I don’t know, this might feel pretty trivial in the long run, but I mean, it really feels like this sequence was needlessly tense. I feel that the scene would have been far stronger if they showed us a little mortality here. Show us that the Bad Batch aren’t exactly immortal. The fact that everyone gets out of this jam just kinda took me out of it. Just barely. I don’t know if we will see the Bad Batch killed off in this final season or if they’re just a one and done team, but I feel that if maybe Wrecker, or Crosshair was lost here, it would have made me care even more for the surviving members of the Bad Batch.

Admittedly though, their leap of faith in their escape is pretty cool.

The heroes go to the village of the Natives who appeared in the last episode, and they get angry that Anakin and the clones have broken their word and that the war is coming to their village, and this is where my only other major criticism comes into play. Rex makes a bit of a speech about how yes, they unfortunately did bring the war to their village, but makes the excuse of what they did to Echo as a reason they had to? I don’t know, the speech he gives just doesn’t really fit the situation if you ask me. But I admit I do have to hold off on more Borg jokes with this speech with all the “turning him into a machine” and “robbed him of humanity” statements he makes.

Rex successfully convinces the natives to join them in their fight against the Separatists, and admittedly, this battle is pretty cool. It’s very much a well executed David and Goliath battle as we see the natives and this group of clones fight of this droid attack force, complete with two big walkers, some badassery from the Bad Batch, and some absolutely charming banter from Echo to Anakin which very much brings me back to the good old days of the show.

Chakotay, pew pew… (Hooray for in-jokes)

The way the episode ends isn’t anything special, after the awesome battle, the natives thank the Jedi, and say the Jedi will always be welcome, and then we get some more dialogue from Rex and Echo, and how Echo tells him that it’ll be just like old times. And Echo seems skeptical as he repeats the phrase in a very unsure manner.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN!!!!!!

Time for some Clone Wars Prediction Smackdown!

Is Echo the equivalent of a sleeper agent? Is he perhaps still connected to the Techno Union in some way? Tambor said that the clones ruined years of research when they abducted him and destroyed his work, yes, but it’s not unlike this show to pull a potential fast one on us. I can’t help but feel that Echo might know more than we’re being led to believe here. That or he’s going to go through a whole lot of PTSD here, and won’t exactly get the happy ending we hope he gets.

Well I mean, we definitely don’t see him in Star Wars: Rebels, so yeah, I’m not expecting good old Echo to last much longer, sadly. Here’s hoping his final story arc here really delivers. I have no doubts it will.

Three episodes in, and this show is flying high in my eyes! Again, I’m not sure if this ends this particular arc, or if there’s more to come, or if the entire season will be one long arc, but regardless of what happens here, I absolutely have no doubt that this will be well worth the journey. While this episode isn’t perfect, it’s definitely the strongest of the three out right now, and I wanna see more of it right the fuck now. It hasn’t blown me away yet, but I have no doubts it will. Keep it coming, Clone Wars!

Looking forward to next episode!

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (A Distant Echo)

Previously on The Clone Wars, Clone trooper, Rex and Cody teamed up with a band of clones that operated a bit outside the book, known as the Bad Batch; a group of defective clones with desirable mutations. Realizing the droid army was more easily adapting to Clone Army tactics and better repelling them, Rex and the Bad Batch were dispatched to try and figure out how the Droid Army is doing this, and Rex makes a disturbing discovery when he detects a signal coming from off world that gives off the indication that his friend Echo, a clone thought to be dead, may actually be alive.

“And now, the continuation…”

We’re here to kick ass and drink blue milk!

“A Distant Echo” picks up directly where we left off last week pretty much, which is the formula of The Clone Wars. Much like the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, Clone Wars tells its story in the form of several mini-arcs, but unlike Enterprise, Clone Wars knows what it is, and knows how to execute narratives and story in this manner that keeps my attention. Sideburn Enterprise. Last week, I called the episode, “The Bad Batch” kinda safe and nothing extraordinary, which wasn’t a bad thing, it was a good episode to get back into the feel of the series, and it did its job well. And in week two, I’m happy to say that the series has not disappointed in keeping my attention.

These are my DC-17 blaster pistols! There are many like them, but these ones are mine!

The episode starts off with Anakin getting briefed by Rex and Hunter (the commanding clone of the Bad Batch) the signal they found, and that it’s originating on Skako Minor. Rex also voices his suspicions that Echo is alive, which sets up the conflict of the story that Rex may be letting his personal feelings on the matter hinder his judgement. More on this later. Anakin sneaks off with Rex to make a secret phone call to Padmé, and I really need to talk about this.

If you recall last week’s review of the new Clone Wars episode, you’ll remember how I said I did not care for the prequel Star Wars movies. I care even less for how they handle their characters, and of those characters, the relationship between Anakin and Padmé was among the worst handled of the trilogy. Long story short, I don’t care about their relationship, they didn’t feel like a genuine couple a lot of the time, and I thought it ended hilariously bad. And if you can’t tell where this is going, The Clone Wars is the exact opposite. I cannot tell you how many times the relationship between Anakin and Padmé sucked me in when watching this show. Not only is it better handled, it fees genuine. Anakin and Padmé walk a very fine line between expressing their feelings for one another, and secrecy, and it can result in some genuinely shocking moments throughout the series.

This moment in particular leads to a near end of their relationship… spoiler alert.

It’s no different here as we see Anakin sneak off to give Padmé a secret call. It not only results in a touching moment between them, but again, it feels much more natural here than in the prequels. In Revenge of the Sith, they do little more than stand around and shower each other with bland romantic dialogue. I’m not saying they don’t have their good moments (the reaction Anakin gives to Padmé being pregnant is a true highlight), but The show just does a better job of making me care about these two as a romantic couple. They feel far more natural, far more passionate, and far more aware of the risks they have in their relationship. Despite this, they do a not so good job of hiding it, as seen here, Obi-wan kinda callls Anakin out for his sneaky call, and honestly, this might be one of the best aspects too since… without spoiling too much about this show, Obi-wan can actually kinda relate to what Anakin might be going through.

Is it just me, or is Padmé showing signs of her pregnancy here? These little details make this show so damn good.

So Anakin and Rex go to Skako Minor to investigate this signal, and we almost immediately run into action with the natives of the planet who kidnap Anakin, and take him to their village, where they have a “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” moment. One thing I do appreciate about Star Wars is that they do get pretty creative with the language barriers, and it’s no different here. In fact, it isn’t until Tech (the clone tech geek of the Bad Batch) comes in and manages to translate everything that we realize that the natives don’t want the war brought to their world. It makes for a nice bit of world building that honestly isn’t used enough in Star Wars.

Google Translate, Clone Wars edition.

Admittedly, while I like this episode, this is kinda where it gets a little off for me, mainly because after we leave the village, and Anakin and the troops are back on the trail of the signal, we get a bit more of the conflict amongst the clones that was present in the previous episode. While it can make sense in the light that Rex is letting his personal feelings hinder his decision-making a bit in regards to the possibility that Echo is alive, I can’t help but feel like it just retreads ground that was’ even already seen as far as character conflict is concerned. I just wasn’t as interested in it this time around.

But I was happy to see Wat Tambor of the Separatists brought back. I do have a soft spot for the Techno Union Leader, his mechanical way of talking, and what he brings to the Confederacy in terms of battle droids. And seeing him set a fun trap for our heroes does lead to the first bit of Jedi action in this final season of the show.

Seriously, this guy is just one of the more likable baddies.

As they fight through the droids and continue to trace the signal, we get to a lift which Rex uses to go up to a room. Wat Tambor taunts him, we see him open a capsule and low and behold, who is there but the crippled, cybernetic body of Echo? And my goodness, I didn’t think it was possible but they totally brought the Borg into Star Wars.

I am Locutus, of Borg. Resistance is futile…

I’ll lay off the Star Trek jokes now, I promise.

The reveal of Echo isn’t anything spectacular or anything, and the episode ends shortly afterward, but this hook definitely has my attention. Echo oaks like he’s been through hell and back, and while I admittedly don’t think this episode would have interested me back in the day had I seen the unfinished footage of it beforehand, it just goes to show how great this show can execute a concept. When it comes to Star Wars, I tend to say if a character dies, they should stay dead. Boba Fett, Palpatine, Darth Vader, they need to stay dead now. Especially Palpatine. STAY DEAD. (That goes for clones too.) The Clone Wars is like the antithesis of this belief, because the characters they tend to bring back result in some of the best stories of the show. Darth Maul was a character I never saw coming back, but I’m very happy they did bring him back, because the relationship between he and Obi-wan gets REALLY damn good. No spoilers there. I have no doubt either that they will do something interesting with Echo in the next episode as well. We shall see this weekend!

“A Distant Echo” is a definite step up from last week. While again, probably not going to crack any personal favorite episode lists, it definitely feels like the crew of this show have not skipped a beat as they finally give some proper closure to this show that has been waited on for the longest time. The relationships are proving to be as immersive as ever, the voice acting once again is on point, and the action is just as fun as it should be. We didn’t really get any awesome dark side Anakin moments (yet), but two weeks into this twelve episode season, I am really liking what is being brought forward. I don’t know if next episode will be the conclusion of this particular arc, or if there’s another episode yet to come, but I’m curious where this will go, and what will become of both Rex and Echo here.

Two for two, boys! Lock and load!

REVIEW: Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution

I got some bad news, Pikachu…

So I just watched Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution, and is it too early to flash this gif?

I don’t care if it’s too early.

So I get that in the SuperGeeks world, I might be one of the few Pokénerds in the crowd, but I think this is still relevant enough to talk about. But before I go on, I should probably describe a bit about my love of the franchise. Arguably, I was much more into Pokémon as a child growing up. Yes, we all had that one thing we enjoyed as a kid. Being born in 1990, I was the prime target for the late 1990’s Pokémon fever that struck the United States. I remember just how big Pokémon was back in the ate 90’s. It was life itself. I was a huge collector of the trading cards, I watched the anime like it was crack, and I played plenty of Pokémon Yellow before the game cartridge itself was damaged. Good times, man.

And yes, with this epidemic of Pokémon in the States, I was one of many who went to theaters and saw the very first Pokémon movie in theaters. I remember this time with fond memories. I remember the Burger King toys they had for this movie, I remember the trading promo cards for the movie, I remember the card that came with the then very new DVD that I still own, and I remember my dad taking me and friends to go see this in theater.

And I honestly feel like I owe him an apology.

My reaction when I realize my childhood nostalgia doesn’t hold up as well as I want it to.

As much as I enjoy my memories of Pokémon growing up, and as much as I will admit that I still check out the franchise from time to time, I am not above saying that I am well aware that Pokémon is not very good when you analyze it for long, and I am not above saying that as an adult, I will not heckle it. The anime in particular has aged spectacularly in that “Wow, how did I ever like this?” kind of fashion. Granted, I actually own quite a few seasons of this show, and quite a few movies (Don’t you judge me!), but on the off-chance they are actually being watched, I find myself poking fun at it every single time, and I’m kinda accepting that the only real reason I still have these is that eventually, I’d like to be a happy father, and I’m 100% certain my children will find it as charming as I did growing up.

Mmmmm… that’s some good nostalgia…
(Seriously, I lived on Kids WB after school, and these promos were the shit.)

And since I intend to be a good father, I intend to keep this remake off their radar, because regardless of my stance of the film, whether or not I hold it in good regards as a nice bit of nostalgia, Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is about as good as an average Disney Live-Action remake.

Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution is the CG-remake of the movie with the same name, and I am 100% convinced that had I seen this as my eight or nine-year-old self, I would think it’s just as bad as I do now. I just wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend just how much of a weird place Pokémon seems to be in right now. I don’t wanna sound like that one guy who is blinded by the nostalgia goggles over their eyes, but this just doesn’t do it for me. I had a pretty low bar watching this, and by the time the credits rolled, all I was asking myself was “Why did I watch this?”

So, inevitably, I’m going to be comparing a lot of this movie to the old, and some might say that this hinders my ability to fully comprehend the film as an adaptation, but the movie pretty much is a scene-for-scene remake of the entire film. It doesn’t do a lot different, and it does far too much in far too similar a fashion. If you’re gonna do this, I say the floodgates for comparisons are open and I’m going to enjoy swimming in it. Let’s just dive on in, shall we?

As a kid, what do you think will be more pleasing to watch?

So before I rip this film a new one, I will go ahead and list off things I actually liked about the film. For one thing, I actually appreciate how the movie opens up. The movie opens up in a jungle where we see a small expedition coming upon some ruins which house carvings of the Pokémon, Mew, one of the rarest Pokémon in existence. The scene mainly serves to provide some exposition and setup for how they stumble upon a Mew fossil, and how they intend to use that fossil to clone Mew, but it’s a scene that was completely cut from the theatrical release of the film, so it was nice to see them include it here, especially since I believe it was a sequence that was originally included for Japanese audiences back in the day.

Only seen on my DVD special features, or on certain VHS tapes if I remember correctly.

Another thing I can appreciate is the visuals. Why lie? Some of the animation in this remake is spot on. While admittedly, some of the character models are pretty weird, I will say that little details are actually really well done. The fabric of the clothes, blades of grass, shadows in the daylight, wrinkles in the clothes, the water looks fan-fuckin-tactic in this movie. Seriously, that water looks amazing! I just wanna go for a nice big swim in that water! 10/10 on that water! Even the Pokémon models are pretty stand-out for the right reasons with details and realism you wouldn’t normally see in the hand-drawn animated film being easy to spot and appreciate, from fur to scales.

I can also very much appreciate the battles and action in this same aspect. They do take full advantage of the CG here, and do their best to make these aspects look as good as they can with the new technology that arguably was not there for them back in 1999 when originally making this. I applaud some of these visual effects that they incorporate into this film, because it does look very good.

Seriously! These battle sequences look awesome!

Okay, so it’s got the look. But what about the feel? The essence? Well, I mean I already flashed my MST3K response up above so I guess that answer is pretty clear.

By the time the familiar plot begins to lay itself out, I couldn’t help but notice something strange, and it’s a problem that plagues most Disney remakes of today. Despite having the longer runtime, it seems to want to rush through some of the scenes that it really shouldn’t rush. The opening sequences of this movie feel like they are so rushed as far as introducing Mewtwo, and who he is. Mewtwo in the original is far more questioning about who he is, and why he was created. It isn’t until he realizes that the scientists who created him care little about him that he decides to kill everyone in the lab… yeah that happens. Little moments such as him learning to clench his fists, or thoughts about him not alllowing himself to be just a simple experiment to be tested and studied are completely glossed over. It wasn’t anything masterful by any means in the original, but it was far more impacting.

“Behold my powers! I am the strongest Pokémon in the world! Stronger even than Mew…”
A true badass boast of the original that is nowhere to be seen here.

Even when Giovanni arrives at the scene, he’s not nearly as manipulative as he was in the original. In the original, he earns Mewtwo’s trust (as short lived as it is in the runtime) by telling him that he and Mewtwo can control the fate of the world together. He makes awesome metaphors to how a wildfire destroys everything it touches, similar to how Mewtwo’s powers do, and that he can help Mewtwo better control those powers. Here… Giovanni barely touches this manipulation. He just kinda comes across as this black and white bad-guy who is somehow even more one-dimensional than his anime counterpart. The sequence of Mewtwo facing test after test doesn’t hit as hard when you don’t hear Mewtwo’s thoughts on him discovering just what he’s capable of. I mean sure, in the original, it was just a couple lines, but it delivers the point home that Mewtwo is still learning to control his power, and it better lands here. The same can be said for when he realizes that Giovanni sees him as nothing more than a tool for Giovanni’s own agenda; a moment that was so pivotal, it was shown to us twice in the animated media beforehand. I hate to say it, but so much of Mewtwo’s inner psyche and his inner thoughts on his existence, and the vendetta he develops with humans is completely gone. I just don’t care about it here. As silly as the original movie is, the goals and thoughts of Mewtwo are far better.

Man… all this over a Pokémon movie that’s 20 years old…

The three amigos!

This of course brings us to our main protagonists of the story, and yes… it was nice to see Misty and Brock by Ash’s side again, even if their new voice actors leave a lot to be desired (one thing 4Kids didn’t mess up). But it’s around this point in the movie that I noticed one very strange thing that proceeded to bug me throughout the entirety of the film… the dialogue. So much of this film’s dialogue is absolutely terrible. And that’s not me watching a kid’s movie with an adult mindset, that’s me comparing the two movies dialogue together. The original is far more charming. And no, this isn’t nostalgia talking. The dialogue of this movie just sucks. For comparison, here’s a moment that happens towards the beginning when Ash Ketchum, in his weak and hungry state, is challenged to a Pokémon battle by a trainer. Ash happily accepts the challenge. And here’s how it plays out in each adaptation. First, the original:

MISTY: Ash, you just said you were too weak to work!

ASH: That’s right, I am too weak to work, but a Pokémon battle isn’t work!

BROCK: That’s progress. At least his mouth is working.

And here’s this same sequence in the remake:

MISTY: What happened to the guy who couldn’t move a muscle?

ASH: I can have a Pokémon battle before breakfast! Maybe two!

BROCK: You’re forgetting one thing… you’re battling before lunch.

Look, even if you’re not a Pokémon fan, I think you know what the more charming exchange is. And this movie is absolutely FULL of these changes. None of which is better than the original. Whether it’s taking out a little comedy in the chemistry of the characters like the example up above, or making Mewtwo not as intimidating, or making Team Rocket look like an even bigger joke than they do in the original, none of the dialogue changes work in this movie for the better! They messed it up! Granted, I’m not saying it should have been the exact same, but I mean would it have been too much to at least try and make it somewhat good? The fact that I could remember the sequence up above BY MEMORY (no, I did not watch the original movie prior to watching this) only goes to show what is the stronger batch of writing!

Another example? In this same area of the film, when Team Rocket is spying on our main heroes, watching them eat lunch, well here’s the original, by memory:

MEOWTH: I’m starving.

JESSIE: (takes out a frying pan) I can cook something!

MEOWTH: Thanks, but the last time you cooked, you wiped out eight of my nine lives.

And now for the remake:

MEOWTH: Am I hungry!

JESSIE: (takes out frying pan) I’ve got a frying pan!

MEOWTH: But without something to fry, it’s little more than a round anvil made out of iron!

Fuck this dialogue. And fuck Team Rocket in this film, they’re terrible. Granted, they never had a standout role in these movies, and were always on the back burner, but even in the original film here, they did FAR more than simply stand around and deliver weak comic relief. They actually helped piece together the mystery of Mewtwo’s creation in the original film to the audience, by showing us some decently executed exposition in the original. It’s been heavily watered down here.

“Do you think we’ll get a bigger part in the next movie?”
No, Meowth, you won’t.

I’ll once more give seriously props to the animation of this film, especially the water. Holy shit does it look good. I especially like how the characters actually look wet when the water clings to their clothes. Credit where credit is due, the visuals succeed with flying colors, and it’s almost enough to distract me from the terrible substance of this film.

As happens in the original, Mewtwo Sends out challlenges to a group of trainers to come face him, but creates a storm to challenge those trainers, so that only those who cross the sea in the storm and make it to his arena are deemed worthy to face him. And I was very tickled to see that they kept a certain highlight of the film. In the original, you can see a trainer flying across on a Fearow to Mewtwo’s island. Yet when we get to the island, that trainer is nowhere to be seen. And it’s heavily implied that this trainer died in the crossing.

Trainer on the left, I have bad news for you…

Well, they not only keep this trainer in the cut here, they add another trainer as well! And none of these two trainers appear at the island. So not one, but TWO trainers get killed trying to get to Mewtwo’s island. I find this absolutely charming. Does that sound maniacal of me? Shut up!

Ash and his pals get to the island, and here’s something that I found odd. They kept a small section of Mew’s filler scenes of the original. Yet elongated it. Why? I have no idea, but there’s a section where Mew is being amused by a windmill in the original movie and it makes for a small bit of cute. And somehow, it’s just not as good in the remake. How do you mess that up?

Look at the cute! LOOK AT IT!
No, not THIS cute, the OTHER cute!

See what I mean? Why elongate the newer one?

Bla bla bla, Mewtwo appears, we get more replaced dialogue that isn’t as good as the original, long story short, Mewtwo hates humans since he sees them as dangerous and he hates the Pokémon who would willingly work with them. And it was around this point where I was actually starting to look at the runtime of the movie. It felt slower. The original had its moments where it dragged, but not like this. It was still relatively quick to the action, and could keep my interest. Here, I can’t help but wonder if the energy is gone. And I think I know why…

It’s the music score. It’s terrible.

The music of the original was nothing spectacular by any means, but it’s not present much of the film here. There are way too many instances in this film where I was asking myself “Is it just me, or is this movie unusually quiet?” The original had a score that played when it was appropriate, and it gave the film more presence. Without the music score here, it feels like there are just one too many awkward pauses in dialogue between character or whatnot. There isn’t even any background noise for a good chunk of it. It really hinders my ability to enjoy this movie. The overall tone, atmosphere, and enjoyability of the movie is just not as good because the music takes such a backseat. This really hits the rest of the movie. And for any of you other people wondering if they still play the “Brother, My Brother” song by Blessid Union of Souls in this remake, no they don’t. Which is a pity because that actually kinda fit that movie. I guess it’s pretty sad when a 90’s throwaway single by a band no one knows about is one of the takeaways of your childhood movies.

As in the original, Mewtwo challenges the trainers to a battle, they lose spectacularly, leading Mewtwo to take their Pokémon, and create clones of them for his new world. Not only does this sequence feel not nearly as exhilarating as the original, but it results in more bad dialogue. Mewtwo isn’t nearly as intimidating here as he was in the original for one thing, and we get terrible lines from Misty like “Are you stealing our Pokémon?!” Where’s my pillow? I need to let out a loud groan into it.

Even this awesome childhood moment doesn’t feel as impactful here.

Mew eventually shows up which leads to a standoff between the army of the trainer’s Pokémon, and Mewtwo’s clone army. Mew lets out that little “mew mew mew” speech about how powers don’t determine the true strength of Pokémon, but that true strength comes at the heart, which Mewtwo misinterprets, and the iconic powerless battle starts. This is where Blessid Union of Souls would start playing.

Brother, my brother…

And it’s ironically here where I would say that Blessid Union of Souls would benefit the film, because without it, and with the quiet musical score paired with the sequences of Pokémon battling makes for a very weird sequence, and it feels far longer than it should feel. It also feels far more tame than I remember it feeling. I don’t know, it just has far more impact and far more brutality in what it shows in the original. Even the watered down morals that the film has about fighting being bad and whatnot have more impact. The morals of this movie were never strong to begin with, but the fact that they take such a nosedive here really says something.

Stop saying our remake of this movie sucks! It doesn’t!

If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. Ash tries to stop the battle, he runs in between Mew and Mewtwo like a moron, get hit by the combined strength of their attacks, and dies. A pivotal moment of the series, as this was the first time we’d seen something like this. It’s a landmark childhood moment to be sure. How is he brought back? Well, the Pokémon are moved by Pikachu’s sadness for his death, and they share in Pikachu’s sadness, crying him back to life pretty much. The thing is that the original explains this a bit better since they establish that long ago, a catastrophe resulted in the near extinction of all life on the planet, and that the tears of surviving Pokémon were the only reason life was able to survive again. As stupid as it is, they explained why Ash survived after the Pokémon brought him back to life. Here… no such explanation exists, so I’m left with the assumption that Pokémon just have magic tears or something.

The one thing you probably couldn’t mess up in the film, and you messed it up. Good job movie.

Yay! Everything is okay!

Even Mewtwo’s epiphany about the situation after Ash’s sacrifice feels watered down. It feels like he comes to the conclusion that all life is precious on his own, rather than having been influenced by Ash’s sacrifice. He barely pays the fact that Ash just killed himself any attention whatsoever.

I need to wrap this up so we all know how it pays out by now. Hopefully anyway. Mewtwo takes the clones and leaves, erasing the memory of everyone on the island, he sends them back to where they came from, the storm disappears, Ash sees Mew briefly, and the journey continues.

Holy shit was this a chore.

Look, even without my nostalgia goggles, this just isn’t very good from so many different angles. If you want to talk about a movie that no one asked for, this is it. If anything, this remake just makes me appreciate the flawed mess that is the original that much more! It’s not perfect, and you probably had to be there to enjoy it as I did, but I mean even to the kids of today who are getting into it I would say that the original movie is worth their time much more. The biggest problem with Evolution is that it has little to no heart. It might look and even sound Ike the movie it’s based on, but the essence that made is a true gem of my childhood is completely absent. And that might sound like bias, but I mean, there’s a reason most Disney remakes get this kind of criticism. They lack what made the original so special, and it’s no different here.

I don’t doubt that there was genuine intent to try and make this special, and it might just be the dub that suffers these problems (I have no idea if the Japanese version of this film differs), but from what I was shown, this just doesn’t have what made the original that special to so many of us Pokéfans.

And it’s a damn shame.

My kids at least will always have this.

Verdict: 3/10

REVIEW: Chronicle (2012)

So a few days ago, someone shared a Looper video which talked about the most underrated superhero movies of the most recent era, and I was surprised that one particular film wasn’t exactly talked about, and that was the Josh Trank movie Chronicle. Seriously, why was this not talked about? I mean sure, it wasn’t a box office bomb, and was critically well-received, but so was Avengers: Age of Ultron, and they talked about that one. For shame Looper. You’ll talk about a terrible film like Push, but completely overlook this film that honestly probably has more going for it than many realize? For shame.

Now I’m not going to say that Chronicle is perfect by any means, because lord knows it’s not, and I can’t exactly say that a lot of the production has aged very well, but for a film with the budget of only about $12 million, I can’t exactly hold it against the film too much.

Not your typical coming of age story.

Chronicle bases its narrative in the style of a found footage movie, and while I can dig the found footage genre as a whole, I will open this film’s analysis on the fact that it really doesn’t feel too much like a found footage movie. What I mean here is that most found footage films out there focus on the narrative perspective of a single camera. It’s not that hard to comprehend, the idea of a found footage movie is that someone has found a singular camera, and is watching the footage on said camera. And Chronicle doesn’t do that. Instead of one camera, the story is told through multiple cameras found throughout the entirety of the film. I mean, sure, our main character, Andrew (played by Dane DeHaan) has a camera (well, he actually has two in this movie), and we see a vast majority of the film through his perspective, but then there are times where we’ll see the perspective of this random girl that is a part of the story, and if that’s not enough, it’ll give us angles from things like security cameras, news cameras, or phone cameras that random people in the background are using. While I kinda like the idea they’re going for here, it very much defeats the purpose of the idea of a found footage movie.

Another thing is that there are angles with the camera not typically possible in your average found footage movie. Now granted, this is a movie about some high school seniors that are gifted with Telekinesis, and Andrew develops a habit of making the camera float around him. Fair enough. But then we go back to the previous point of the multiple camera perspectives. There’s a point in the climax where Andrew surrounds himself with cameras, and I honestly don’t know why. I mean, granted, with his camera, he’s filming his life, and that’s fine and all, lots of people do that. But towards the end when he surrounds himself with the random phones of other people, I can only assume that by this point, the writers had written themselves into a hole, since Andrew didn’t have his camera with him anymore, and said to themselves, “Well we’re a found footage movie, but he doesn’t have his camera, so fuck it, we’ll have him take a bunch of random phones and surround himself so the audience can follow what’s going on.” I would say that this very much defeats the purpose of a found footage film. I’d say that the film would work better as a typical superhero movie, but the more I look at this narrative, I almost wonder if it works best as a found footage movie. I shouldn’t think too hard on this.

Not cool, bro. Here I am enjoying a nice night at the #SeattleSpaceNeedle, when this crazy superhuman dude who fucking flies decides to steal me and everyone else’s phone for no reason, and just have them hover around him for no reason! There goes my new Samsung Galaxy S3! 😦

So as I said, Chronicle follows Andrew, and his two friends, Steve and Matt. Andrew buys himself a camera, intent on filming his life, and we’re quickly revealed that he lives in a dysfunctional family, in which his father is an abusive drunk, and his mother is terminally ill. Andrew is quickly established as a bit of an outcast, often picked on, often bullied, and seen as a bit of a creep. His cousin Matt invites him to a school party, where he, Andrew, and their friend Steven come upon a hole in the ground making weird noises at them. So they decide to go into it, because movie I guess.

Secret tunnel! Secret tunnel! Through the mountain! Secret, secret, secret, secret tunnel!

The boys go into their secret tunnel in the middle of the woods, wander through the tunnel, which messes with the camera, and they come upon a mysterious glowing blue rock crystal thing. What this is, where it came from, or why it’s there? Your guess is as good as mine, it’s the big MacGuffin of the film. It’s there to serve one purpose, and that’s about it. The boys interact with it, the film cuts out, and a few days later, the boys have seemingly developed the power of telekinesis.

So tantalizing…

Now since boys will be boys, they go about testing their powers by pulling silly pranks, and admittedly, these can be pretty funny moments. There’s just something so very innocent about this entire sequence of them making shopping carts move away while wielding a toy lightsaber, and mentally scarring a little girl by having her see a floating teddy bear, scaring the daylights out of her. And yes, as terrible as it will sound, I get a laugh when Steve pushes a car across the parking lot and confuses the person who parked it.

“Yes, it was the black guy this time.”
It makes me laugh. I might go to Hell for it, but it makes me laugh.

The way the three go about discovering just what they’re capable of with their newfound power is also a lot of fun. It goes beyond simple pranks, and mischief. Some very fun concepts are explored in what they do with their telekinesis, such as creating invisible barriers, or crafting lego Seattle Space Needles (Andrew is a bit of a show-off). I think they go a bit overboard with the talent show scene which pays out like a clichéd unpopular kid suddenly wins everyone over because talent sequence, but this movie is home to one of the absolute best, if not the absolute best flying scenes I have ever seen in any superhero movie.

The way this movie approaches flight is absolutely fantastic. At first it’s super chill in how it does it, showing Steve just kinda lounging around, trying to teach it to both Andrew and Matt with this slow and steady learning pace. You seen them struggling, almost like they’re learning how to ride a bike again, and then it transitions into them all zooming across the skies at super fast speeds, cheering like any sane person would at such a discovery. I even love how they kinda address that flying at that height would be very freezing. I mean, sure they don’t address every point that Because Science addresses in why no one would actually want this kind of flight, I do dig that they don’t just completely Superman it. (They don’t do that until later.) Their joy and excitement at learning how to fly is easily one of the things that makes this movie so damn fun.

Flying high again!

Now of course, this movie isn’t without the boys getting into some actual trouble, and they very quickly realize that (as cliche as this will sound), with great power comes great responsibility. They realize that as their powers get stronger and stronger, they have the capacity to do some real harm to people, and while this should come as no big shock, the way they discover this as well feels very fresh and believable. This is far from your typical superhero origins story. In fact, a lot might call it quite the opposite, though I’m hesitant to call it a supervillain origin story either. More on that shortly. When they realize they can actually put a lot of people in danger with their abilities, and force themselves to ground their abilities, it very much feels natural and something someone their age might feel. And as they progress, and things start to get out of hand, eventually leading to the death of Steve, you can see just how fast things hit the fan.

This of course brings us back to Andrew. The kid who is in a dysfunctional family with an abusive dad, and a dying mom. Arguably, this might be the biggest thing I’m not sure how to analyze, because I both love and hate what this movie does with Andrew. You see, one of the biggest criticisms I see aimed at this movie is that Andrew’s character doesn’t really go through a lot of development. One of the core SuperGeeks here went as far to say that simply having Andrew go crazy doesn’t constitute as character development. The thing is… it’s not supposed to.

I don’t think you should be viewing Andrew as a typical character. I mean not only is the found footage approach to film going to hinder character development in the way a typical movie normally would approach a character, but you need to really take into perspective everything that Andrew has been going on through life here. Andrew has had to put up with years and years of physical and mental abuse from his father, and classmates. Even his cousin Matt distanced himself from Andrew, and when life gets too hard, Andrew begins to take life into his own hands.

Admittedly, this monologue is pretty cheesy.

Andrew looks at his powers as something that makes him superior to other people. And he quickly gains a dangerous mindset that isn’t so much meant to make him look insane, but broken. You take away Andrew’s telekinesis, give him a gun, he’s your next Columbine Shooter. And no, this isn’t a tasteless joke, this is a legit comparison. You might think that Andrew goes from 1 to 11 in his vendetta against the world, but no one saw the Columbine Massacre coming in 1997. Two distressed, highly disturbed teenagers shocked the entire nation with one horrifying tragedy. And I can’t help but see Chronicle as a bit of a metaphor in this aspect.

You might think Andrew goes a little overboard with his monologues of apex predators and whatnot, but this mindset he has is eerily similar to what these kinds of people have. I remember the day the Columbine Massacre happened, and how it affected my mother in particular. When I grew older to fully understand this event, and looked further into it, there was just so much I couldn’t believe about the two who initiated such an event. Their mindset was highly disturbing, and Andrew very much has a similar mindset. You might think him declaring himself an apex predator is cheesy in the moment, but I mean it fits the character. A guy who’s no longer able to be reasoned with, will do everything he can to hurt anything and anyone around him, until he is eventually taken down.

You make me wanna scream!

I’ll step aside from the depressing school violence comparisons here because I’m not going to say that the film’s night climax in Seattle is exactly perfect. I do feel like it goes just a little bit over the top. While again, things like transitioning between certain camera angles, news cameras, phone camera’s, police dash cams, and security camera footage is a pretty neat idea, it does make for a rather weird found footage movie. Now I don’t want to say that this movie was just trying to do what Cloverfield did back in 2008, becauseI never felt like it was at all trying to imitate that film, but I mean again, in so many ways it felt like they wrote themselves into a corner here when trying to show us Matt and Andrew flying through the Seattle skyline, smashing into buildings, through walls (did they get durability from the magic rock as well?), and whatnot.

And yes, I do believe that Andrew in his last moment does go over the top. While I will defend his mental breakdown for the reasons stated, I can’t help but laugh when he’s shouting like Goku as he tries to pretty much unleash his full potential in this climactic fight scene. And I do wonder if Matt screams out “Andrew!” more times than Kaneda screams out “Tetsuo!” in Akira. Or Finn shouting out “Rey!” as often as he does in the latest Star Wars movies… okay Finn probably wins that.

Now when all this ends, I do believe the film ends on a very touching moment, and I won’t spoil it for those who are interested in this film. And I do believe that the overall taste the film leaves is very good. It doesn’t exactly leave you on a definite ending, but honestly, I don’t think it needs to. It hints at a sequel, but I don’t think it needs one. I mean, sure, the film doesn’t properly explain everything that happens to them in this film, it doesn’t explain how Matt and Steve tend to know when Andrew is in emotional distress, and whatnot, but in the same way, it didn’t need to do this anymore than it needed to explain where the magic rock came from. Sometimes, it’s best to leave these kinds of things up to the imagination.

There is charm in simplicity, and I thoroughly believe that this film accomplishes that.

So where does that leave Chronicle?

Chronicle has its fair share of problems admittedly. But in the same way, I do believe it has far more going for it than people give credit for. Granted, around this point in time, I was not exactly onboard with the MCU, and thought costumed superheroes were pretty dorky, and I much preferred the approach like this film, or even Heroes had in its heyday. But even 8 years later, I find this film not only to be thoroughly enjoyable, but surprisingly complex for a simple movie about three boys who find out they have extraordinary abilities. I’m not going to say it’s a masterpiece of social commentary, and I admittedly may be overthinking some aspects of the film here, but it is nice to see a superhero movie with substance that goes beyond your typical superhero trope story. I haven’t seen another superhero movie quite like this one, and the fact that so little people talk about it just doesn’t do it a service if you ask me.

Is it underrated? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. I get that the found-footage genre isn’t for everyone, and that on first glance, seeing the characters doing what they do in this film might seem odd or whatnot, but I do believe it is by design. If you’re curious about this film, give it a watch. I’m willing to bet there’s something inside you might enjoy. Might even get you thinking. If anything, at least check out those flying scenes. I’m telling you, those kick ass.

Verdict: 7/10

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Bad Batch)

Well with all this Star Trekkin’ going on right now with Star Trek: Picard, and how awesome a series that’s turning out to be right now, I almost completely forgot that this month, we get the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which debuted on Friday. I would not have seen this for a while had I not been browsing one of my Star Wars groups just now to see if they’d shared a music video by The Hu. They had. But the silver lining was that I found out that The Clone Wars had finally debuted!

We’re getting the band back together!

For a small summary of what I thought of The Clone Wars, let’s just say that I am not a very big fan of the Star Wars prequels. In fact, they are the movies that birthed my inner critic. While I can appreciate the aesthetic of The Phantom Menace, the jumbled narrative of it trying to squeeze as much as it does into a two hour movie hinders the story immensely. Attack of the Clones is no better. If it weren’t for that awesome final act of the film, I’d write off Attack of the Clones as potentially the absolute worst Star Wars movie ever made. Revenge of the Sith I find myself in a minority on. Everyone calls it the prequel movie that’s actually really good. I highly disagree. I find it the most disappointing of the trilogy. Partly because I ruined my viewing experience by reading the novelization before watching the film (seriously, the novelization kicks ass), butI mean even without the novelization, the movie just doesn’t know how to handle its characters, making every decision in this movie feel so forced and uninspiring. Anakin’s conversion to the Dark Side of the Force remains one of the most underwhelming moments I’ve ever seen in all of Star Wars (and yes… the book does it better, don’t fucking say it doesn’t). You can say what you want about the sequel trilogy films, and the problems they admittedly have, but they are a much easier watch for me than the prequels, and I tend to care about what each character is going through in that trilogy more than I do the prequels.

“If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy!”
You know… because the audience is too dumb to piece together that you two aren’t best buddies anymore.

Enter The Clone Wars, which despite starting off with an absolutely forgettable movie (seriously, does anyone talk about that thing anymore?), exceeded pretty much every expectation I had. This show takes one of the most integral plot points of the entire Star Wars franchise, and runs off with it, crafting one of the most intriguing, well developed, tenderly handled animated shows I’ve ever seen. I was not expecting this level of excellence in a show that was taking place in the same universe of movies where someone literally says “I hate sand.” Hell, for as forgettable (or even cringey) as the opening movie is, it handles so much of the Star Wars universe rather nicely, and shows that it cares about how it handles characters like Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the new face, Ahsoka Tano, and that’s not to mention Asaj Ventress, who is easily one of my favorite characters of the franchise now. While the series definitely has its not-so-good episodes (usually those that focus on the droids, or Jar Jar Binks… yeah he’s in it too), this series would blow my mind with how it handled its stories, characters, concepts, it was so great that I actually almost want to refuse that it takes place in the prequel movie universe. There is no fucking way something this good takes place in a trilogy of movies that bad. And there is no way a paragraph will properly tell you how great it is. I’ve also recently started watching the spinoff, Star Wars: Rebels, which while not exactly the same quality material, is still pretty fun. If you have not seen this series, there is no better time to start! And this is coming from a die-hard Trekkie!

Moments like this are absolutely everywhere in the series. Anakin Skywalker truly feels like he is on the slippery slope to becoming Darth Vader. Asaj Ventress is also probably the best character of the series. I really hope we see her this season, though since her story ends in a novel, I’m not holding my breath.

With all this said, how is the debut episode of its final season?

I am happy to say that The Clone Wars doesn’t feel like it’s skipped a beat at all. By the time the familiar opening theme played, the little words of wisdom displayed on the screen, and the narrator set up the scene for the episode to play out, I was ready to take a nice big bite out of this Star Wars sandwich. I was happy to see that the voice-acting felt as lively as ever, and the animation feels strangely more fluid. I hear a lot of complaints about the animation in this series being hard on the eyes, and I just don’t see where it comes from. I personally enjoy it. It has a charm.

Now I’m going to get a little spoiler-y here so read on at your discretion.

Previously on Star Wars: The Clone Wars…

“The Bad Batch” begins an arc with the clone characters, Rex and Cody, as they discover that their friend, Echo might actually be alive. Echo was last seen in the third season, giving his life so his friends could get away. After the Clones find themselves on a losing streak on the planet Anaxes, due to droid army starting to better analyze tactics used by the clone army and better adapt them, Rex gets a gut feeling that his friend is alive when he realizes the Clone Army is using a lot of skillsets and Strategies he and Echo put together. So Cody and Rex enlist the assistance of Clone Force 99, otherwise known as the Bad Batch.

Think of the Bad Batch as a Clone Army A-Team, only more unstable. The team consists of four clones, with varying unique abilities that make the team a force to be reckoned with. One has super-human strength, one has enhanced eyesight, one has superior mapping senses, the other is a computer wizard, you get the idea, the show describes them as clones that are defective, but possess “desirable mutations”.

You’re playing with the big boys now…

Admittedly, this is an element of the episode that I have mixed reactions to. The characters are fun and all, but they’re a little too by-the-book in how they’re portrayed as characters. The computer wizard is super smart, the guy who maps out the area super well has a headband that very much makes him feel like a discount Rambo, you got the enhanced eyesight guy who is broody, doesn’t say a whole lot, but can snipe enemies really good, and then you got super-human-strength guy, who feels like a psychopath. Their ship is crashing, and he’s just laughing as it happens. Like a maniac. It just feels like they play too much like a character archetype. And this leads to some predictable clashes with the main characters which doesn’t feel that interesting. granted, I am happy they stay away from being too predictable in which their clashes only get them into trouble, only for them to understand and respect their differences and get out of trouble at the last moment, but honestly, had they gone this route, I would not have been surprised.

This debut episode for this final season doesn’t pull too many punches, it feels like a setup episode, which a lot of Clone Wars episodes are. If they’re going to be giving us the typical mini-arc stories this show is known for, I can expect things to pick up in the upcoming episodes, but that’s not to say this episode is dull, we get some fun action, we get a fun story, and it does leave me on a good note in which Rex makes a startling discovery (SPOILER) when he realizes his friend Echo might not be dead as once thought.

One thing I like about this show is that the clones of this show actually develop into characters that feel more fleshed out than typical clones.

I really need to credit Dee Bradley Baker, who voices all these clone troopers. I have no idea how he does it, but the guy knows how to bring out each performance as if it were an entirely different person. This cannot be easy. The guy is basically acting with himself a good amount of the time, likely listening to his own lines through a headset, and interacting with it as if it were someone completely different. I have no idea what he does to bring these performances to life, but he does it so great in this series, and it’s no different here. Granted, I think some of these Bad Batch clones have different voice actors, but Baker still puts up an impressive performance(s).

There’s not too much to analyze in this episode as it’s a pretty safe plot for the most part, in a show that’s only 30 minutes long, but as safe as it feels, I am very much looking forward to what this final season has to offer us. Already we have a hook for what to expect next episode with Rex maybe once more coming face to face with Echo, and while there hasn’t been any Jedi action yet, we know that later on, we’re expecting Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano to make another appearance. Apparently, it’s also going to be exploring the Siege of Mandalor, which is an event that impacts the other Star Wars show everyone’s raving about, The Mandalorian, so why lie? I’m excited.

Yeah… I’m excited to see this.

I mean sure, Star Trek: Picard is still on the frontlines as far as my priorities are concerned, but I am happy to see this show finally getting some proper closure. This is a show that very much always felt like it got the short end of the stick when it came to properly finishing it. Season 5 was a good finale, but it still felt like something was missing. Season six was also good, but was hardly something I’d call closure. While I’m not going to say that this final season will be proper closure until I see how it finishes, I have little reason to be nervous about how it will end. This was a show that always managed to surprise me while I watched. There were times they showed something that was absolutely jaw-dropping in execution, and I have no doubt that this final season will have these moments as well.

How was this debut episode? It gets a thumbs up from me. As simple as it is, simplicity is not a bad thing. It’s a good way to get the fans of the show back in the mood, back in the groove, and it does a good job of showing that it’s got some cards to play still. I look forward to seeing how this season goes, and I wait with baited breath for this second episode to drop.

Bring it on!

REVIEW: Breaking Bad (Season 1)

This one picture alone convinces me that Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White are the same person.

So for as much TV as I watch, it might come as a surprise to many people that not once have I ever seen the show known as Breaking Bad. There really is no distinct reason for this, I just never went out of my way to check it out. I wasn’t going to deny that the show was potentially very good, or anything, it just never came across as my cup of tea, and I just sort of acknowledged that it existed. I didn’t get any internet jokes about the show, I didn’t know why everyone thought Walter White was a genuine badass, the only thing I really knew about the show was that Bryan Cranston was in it, and it was about drugs. Not exactly a big selling point for me. But here I am, finally watching it, and I got absolutely nothing but high praise for the show. Shall we get cooking, and see why this show is so awesome? Pun totally intended.

The early years…

Now as I said the first time I talked about this show on the group page, I had already thought that Bryan Cranston’s acting abilities were criminally underrated. I had seen him in Malcolm in the Middle, I remember the tremendous hype for 2014’s Godzilla simply because he was cast in it, and I remember so many people hoping that his character would be the Walter White Godzilla badass equivalent, to the point where a good chunk of the Godzilla fandom still resents the movie for what happens to his character maybe 30 minutes in. I will not deny the guy has some very good acting chops. I can’t think of one role I’ve seen him in that hasn’t disappointed me. Malcolm in the Middle is a personal favorite sitcom of mine, and Cranston can carry so many scenes in that show. And I even love what he brought to the Godzilla movie he was in. But if there was anything out there to further solidify my thought process that Bryan Cranston is criminally underrated as an actor, it was this debut season of Breaking Bad. Quite frankly, I’m asking myself why it took me this long to watch it.

Breaking Bad has so much going on for it. Despite a very short seven episode season, I am drawn in and eager to start season two. The only reason I haven’t started watching it is because the roommates are watching with me, and I’m a team player by not watching ahead of them. Ironically, it was one of these roommates that has been pushing me to watch this show for almost eight years now (good God, have I really been living with this guy for that long???), and he’s like a tour guide of this series due to the fact that he grew up in New Mexico and is able to point out certain and marks that he’s personally been to, or knows exist. I never remember specifics, but it’s still a fun fact none-the-less.

From the very first moment, the show had my eyes go wide, as it starts out unlike any show I’ve seen before. In fact, it starts out in one of the most bizarre introduction sequences I’ve ever seen in which we see a near totally naked Bryan Cranston driving an RV like a mad man in the desert, with three bodies in the vehicle, water on the floor, glass rattling everywhere, and absolutely no sense of reasonable speed. Needless to say, he crashes into a ditch, stumbles out of the RV, still near-naked, puts a shirt on, has a pistol in his hand, as well as a camcorder, as the sound of sirens appear to draw closer. He does a testimonial to his family on the camcorder as the sirens draw closer, he stands in the middle of the road, aims his pistol… title card.

White, Walter White.

What the hell did I just start watching, and why am I immediately in love?!

The show of course follows chemistry professor, Walter White, an average, run of the mill guy, and the rest of the pilot episodes details the events leading up to that absolutely bizarre opening. Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) gets hit with the news that he has inoperable lung cancer, and that he has maybe two years at most left to live. We get a very interesting look at his inner psyche as he copes with this information and needless to say, his approach to coping is very unusual. Seeing a family friend, who serves law enforcement, busting a local drug operation, and seeing the high amount of money in store, and interested to make sure his family is set for his future passing, he partners up with a delinquent he used to teach, named Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and says that with his knowledge of chemistry, and Jesse’s knowledge of the drug business, they could make a formidable team.

Legit one of the best moments of the opening season.

This of course is the catalyst for the absolute roller coaster that Season One is for this show. And perhaps the biggest reason everything seems to work in this show is it’s wonderful ensemble of characters, all wonderfully cast. There is no character of this series that feels like they don’t belong. Every character is believable, likable (and if they’re not likable, it’s for the right reasons), you enjoy each development that’s shown on screen, and that is something I can’t often say about each show. As much as I absolutely love shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I’d be lying if I said that every single character has near flawless development throughout the series, and that’s the show I say has the absolute best character ensemble of that franchise.

Watching Walter White slowly transform into this chemistry professor, with little going on in life, to an emerging drug lord legend, and genuine badass is really damn fun. I never would have thought that show simple show about drugs could develop such an intriguing narrative on this one guy alone. And it is entirely believable! Early on when he’s getting his feet wet, the visual disturbance that his character goes through when he realizes the full scale of this kind of lifestyle is absolutely jaw-dropping at times. One of the most tense examples of this comes in the third episode when he’s forced to kill a trafficker who goes by Krazy-8. The final scene these two share together Is beyond tense in all the right ways, and is just one of the few examples I can think of when it comes to just how masterfully this show can manipulate your emotions.

I’m willing to bet that Kryptonite Bike locks flew off the shelves after this scene.

And that isn’t even the half of it. Jesse Pinkman, a character I straight up thought I would end up being more annoyed by than anything is also really damn likable. The show paints him early on as this wannabe punk who let his life get away with him, settled in with the wrong crowd, cares only about himself, and is only partnering with Walter because if he doesn’t he’ll get in trouble with the law. But I was shocked at just how much I would come to really like this character. Sure, he still has his thug-life moments that I just kinda shrug at, but one of the best character moments so far of this entire series came when he went to his parents, and bonded with them. The scenes he shares with his little brother in particular are truly heartwarming, even if for the reason you wouldn’t expect.

These two work so damn well together for this one episode.

Seeing Jesse in this one episode, seeing what his life was at one point like before everything went downhill shows us that these “thugs” are human beings too, and have people who love them. I’m not at all trying to say that drug traffickers and drug lords are nice guys by any means, but it is nice to see a more human side of these people here. The very last moment that Jesse shares with his younger brother, where Jesse willfully takes the fall for his younger brother in bringing weed into the house not only makes for another very believable scene, but I absolutely love when the younger brother asks for it back, only for Jesse to deny him along the lines of “it’s junk weed man”. I have no idea if there was a subtle message for his brother in that he shouldn’t fall for this lifestyle, or go down the road Jesse did, but it’s a damn good scene regardless.

And that’s not the mention the chemistry (no pun intended here) that Jesse and Walter share onscreen. This is definitely an opposites attract storyline here, and these two works so damn well together from episode one. I lost track of how many times I laughed at their interactions, or verbally said to myself, out loud, “Oh, shit…” You wouldn’t expect a guy who bombed chemistry (I can totally relate) and a guy who is a chemistry expert to blend so well together, but low and behold, this show pulls it off.

This one scene has not left my head since I saw it.

Seeing these two go from being hesitant criminal partners who only work together because they have little choice in the matter, to people who genuinely start to care about each other in the line is just fun in an of itself. Though, a lot of this contributes to Walter’s development as a character, in both his criminal and normal life. Honestly, following Walter around in this show is already worth the watch. His spontaneous behavior makes for some of the absolute best moments of the show so far, and since I’m ony seven episodes in, I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s sabotaging a dude’s car he barely knows, punching a random customer in a store for insulting his disabled son (I haven’t even touched how well Walt’s development with his actual family is in this!), or straight up confronting a drug lord trafficker who put Jesse in the hospital. There are just way too many moments of badass in this series.

“This is not meth.” That is definitely one of my favorite pre-ass kicking one-liners out there.

I could go on and on about this show and just how radical it is so far, but I mean, chances are, most of you have seen it. I know I’m very late to the train in watching it, but on the off-chance you haven’t seen this show, you’re really denying yourself quite an experience. I’m honestly getting a little antsy that we haven’t even started the second season yet. I wanna fucking watch it right fucking now. This seven episode season has proven enough to me that this show is something very special. It is on a fast track to become one of my favorite television shows of all time. Not even Deep Space Nine or Avatar: The Last Airbender had me hooked like this one season in. And definitely not by episode seven.

This looks like the start of a beautiful relationship.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the execution of characters, the production value, the intriguing narrative, the near flawless tension in the atmosphere, the wonderful portrayals of each actor… Breaking Bad succeeds on every front with flying colors. The fact that the biggest criticism I can really come up with is that I really don’t care for the one character that is a bit of a klepto really says something, and even then, I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to like her. That’s just the show’s design. I guess I’m mainly hoping she has a bigger impact on the plot moving forward since her subplots in this season really don’t matter all that much. I feel like you could cut them out, and not much changes. We will just have to see moving forward.

And we better fucking move forward soon, because I’m beginning to suffer a massive Breaking Bad withdrawal.

Verdict: 9/10

THROWBACK REVIEW: Geppetto (2000)

So I watched the TV-movie Disney adaptation Geppetto last night and it was not very good. I mean, granted, I don’t think I should have really expected much since TV-movies tend to be lacking in quality nine times out of ten, and pretty forgetful. But this mindset might come from the fact that most TV-movies I watched growing up were terrible half-assed disaster genre films that leave me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth all these years later. However, in terms of Geppetto, I cannot help but feel that this TV-movie is special in terms of just how little this entire cast seemed to care in this product.

Now I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the Pinocchio story. It’s not one of my favorite Disney films out there, I’ve never touched the literature, almost every single rendition or portrayal of the character has been typical, or just bad. The more I think about it, the more I realize that growing up, I was around Pinocchio far more than I realized, from the forgetful TV adaptations, to the Disney film, to the Geico commercials, to the Shrek portrayal… I guess what I’m getting at here is that my bar for this film was pretty low from the get-go, and for some reason, my expectations still weren’t met. I was hoping this would be one of those dumb bad movies you could pop in your player, make yourself a drink, and enjoy it for all the wrong reasons, but ironicallly, I don’t think this movie even accomplished that, despite the few laughs I admittedly had.

The first thing that stood out to me in this movie was the insane amounts of talent that were in this film. Drew Carey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Wayne Brady, fucking Usher made an appearance. I nearly did a spit take when the names Brent Spiner, and René Auberjonois crossed my screen. What the hell are Data and Odo doing in a Pinocchio story? There’s no denying that the movie has a talented cast. Apparently it was originally written for Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews as a sort of Mary Poppins reunion, but since Julie Andrews was getting throat surgery, they said screw it and got Drew Carey and the girl from Seinfeld. I’m sure the chemistry between those two will be just as magical as Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews.

For some reason, I keep looking at this guy and want to watch Hook. I think it’s the glasses.

So if you don’t already know, Geppetto follows the Pinoccchio story as you likely know it, only it’s told through the perspective of Geppetto, as played by Drew Carey. And I gotta say I don’t know if I can think of a more miscast character that I have ever seen. Drew Carey has a delivery along the lines of Matthew Broderick throughout this movie, and not once does it ever feel like he wants to be here. I’m not an expert on acting, but it does feel just a bit wooden, and I promise you that I was not just going for a cheap pun here. Drew Carey is not very good in this role. Not that the Pinocchio kid is anymore convincing. Seth Adkins plays the puppet, and I can’t say the actor is familiar to me. Apparently he was in some crime drama episodes of NCIS, apparently he had a very young role in James Cameron’s Titanic, I can’t say he looks familiar for anything I might have seen. And here, I can’t say he’s outstanding, but ironically, his performance isn’t nearly as wooden as Geppetto. Okay, I admittedly was going for the pun there.

The eyes of a cold-blooded serial killer right there.

Geppetto runs a toy store that apparently is one of the absolute busiest places in town. I guess it’s so busy, that every single morning, the kids and their families rush to his store like it’s Black Friday on Thanksgiving night. The musical number is charming in itself during this sequence, but I can’t say Drew Carey’s strained voice eft me fairly charmed. Geppetto wonder during this number why so many families raise such spoiled children, which I guess is actually a pretty big theme for this special.

We know how this goes. Geppetto makes a puppet (who is actually terrifying), he makes a wish on a star that his puppet would become a real boy (without singing the iconic song), and Seinfeld Blue Fairy girl comes down and makes the wish come true right in front of Geppetto. Yeah, Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t spectacular here either, and it’s from this moment on that you can really start to see how this was originally written for Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, because throughout the special, Geppetto and the Fairy share quite a few musical numbers together. And honestly… the chemistry is not very good. I don’t know what they needed to do to make this couple better, but I feel like these two would better perform together in a community play of this show than a TV-movie.

Pinocchio comes to life, and surprise surprise, Geppetto realizes that being a father isn’t very easy. One thing that actually got me laughing was that Geppetto actually attempts to wish Pinocchio back in a way that makes it sound like the magic the fairy did was jacked up from the beginning. Pinocchio gets in all sorts of trouble, and I can’t help but think that Geppetto is an absolute shit father. There are times that Geppetto is A complete ass to Pinocchio even. While I’m not a very big fan of the story, I can remember just how caring Geppetto was of his boy when he came to life. Part of the story focuses on Pinocchio attempting to rescue his father from a whale after his father goes out trying to find him, going all around the country to do so.

Here, Geppetto barely is listens to his boy, comes across more like an authoritarian than a loving parent (I get that parents need to display authority, but they also need to showcase love, and Geppetto is lacking that here), and tries to wish all his problems away by constantly calling on the fairy (who appears quite a lot). There’s a sequence after Pinocchio goes to school where he gets in trouble for fighting with another kid. Pinocchio was mimicking this kid, because Geppetto told him to go to school and do what the other kids do. When Pinocchio says “I was just doing what the other kids do”, I immediately though “All Geppetto has to do is say “That’s not what I meant”. Instead, Geppetto just drags Pinocchio home saying he doesn’t want to hear excuses, and dear God, Geppetto is a terrible father. Why did the fairy think this guy deserved anything?

Moving right along, Stromboli eventually enters the picture, and he is portrayed magnificently by Brent Spiner. Trek bias aside, Brent Spiner is the best part of this entire thing. Not only does he bring a certain goofiness to this piece, but the man isn’t half-bad when it comes to singing. I still have his “Bravo, Stromboli” music number kinda stuck in my head.

I think Data’s holodeck fantasies are getting a little too bizarre.

Spiner’s contribution to this almost makes it all worth watching honestly. Stromboli in this is either borderline schizophrenic or way too into his job as a puppeteer. He’s often carrying a puppet around like a dummy and interacting with it as casually as he would anyone else. And I was actually kinda surprised that Stromboli is as big a character as he is in this special. Stromboli just kinda drops off the face of the earth in most of the Pinnochio specials I see, and even the movie. Here, he’s the main antagonist, and it’s actually quite refreshing. It doesn’t feel forced, and it feels quite well done. You can tell that Brent Spiner is giving 110% here, and while Spiner’s goofy voices give me flashbacks of the not so good TNG episode “Masks”, by the time the credits were rolling in this thing, I was only thinking just how criminally underrated Brent Spiner’s acting abilities are. He is quite the energetic nutball in this special.

Bravo, Brent Spiner!

Speaking of Star Trek alumni, René Auberjonois (God rest his soul) makes an appearance too, as a professor that magically makes the perfect kid. And while his musical piece is pretty charming, I can’t say it left as big an impression as Spiner’s big number. It’s just not as memorable, but that’s not to discredit Auberjonois’ ability to at here, he’s an absolute joy, and I’m not even saying his song, “Satisfaction Guaranteed” is bad. It just didn’t leave me as whimsical a mood as “Bravo Stromboli”. But Auberjonois’ character and his giddiness and eagerness to magically create perfect children for Geppetto in the manner a used car salesman might push you to buy a car is quite charming.

Come down to Buonragazzo’s Perfect Children Emporium! Satisfaction Guaranteed!

But if we wanna talk about major ear worms of musical numbers, look no further than Usher’s “Pleasure Island”. Yeah, Usher is in this.

A face you can trust!

I’m not lying when I say Usher’s musical number was stuck in my head a good chunk of the night after watching this. Usher brought his dancing and vocal A-game, even if the Pleasure Island they depict feels rather tame for an island that boys go to make jackasses of themselves. The worst we see is them pigging out on cakes, a little tame vandalism, and that’s about it. I get that budget was likely an issue, but this just doesn’t feel like the grand no rules land that Pleasure Island is meant to be.

The song is super catchy though.

But if we wanna talk bad sets, the whale’s stomach is pretty dull. Then again, most of this part of the movie feels rushed and half-assed. We spend less than two minutes it feels in the stomach, where we see them escape effortlessly, and the very next scene shows them back in their home streets as if it were a minor inconvenience. Potentially swimming miles to shore after being swallowed by a whale after going on a near impossible journey to find my child? I can do it in my sleep!

Yes, let’s just sit in I this mixture of stomach acid and seawater. I’m sure nothing will go wrong here.

But honestly, I think the real kicker that makes this one of the worst Pinocchio adaptations I’ve ever seen is the ending. Think about it. How does Pinocchio become a real boy? Well he has to prove himself brave, unselfish, truthful, then he will become a real boy. It’s really a simple morality tale that has a happy ending in this retrospect. Here?

Uh…

Well, Pinocchio doesn’t do anything. We do’t see him develop as a character and learn these traits, and by the time Geppetto and Pinocchio return home, and Stromboli is waiting for them with legal claim to Pinocchio, we are left with little left to resolve the main conflict of the story; turning Pinocchio into a real boy. Having seen little development, and with Stromboli pretty much dragging him away, Geppetto is left with little choice than to sing a not so memorable song, and once more call on the Blue Fairy. The Blue Fairy waves her wand a few times, abra kadabra, Pinocchio is now a real boy. That’s right, Pinocchio is Deus Ex Machina’d into a real boy.

I mean I guess Geppetto learns to be a better father, but I mean, I feel like the story of Pinocchio needs to be about Pinocchio. If you wanna show Geppetto learning to be a better father, cool, but I don’t think you can just take away the core development of Pinocchio since Pinoccchio needs to learn these life lessons to gain his goal. Here, he constantly defies his father, constantly gets into trouble, is lucky the donkey curse “washes off” in water, and even relies on lying to get them out of the whale. I mean… what the hell does Pinocchio learn in this?

After realizing he didn’t need to do anything to eventually become a real boy, Pinocchio’s career quickly went downhill.

Now this special isn’t without its charm. I do find a lot of the set designs to be colorfu and creative, and for as forgetful as most of these musical pieces are, they are entertaining to watch for the most part (these can have some wonderful choreography). Yes, the special has its moments to shine, and I even had a few laughs in that so bad it’s good manner, but that just isn’t enough to exonerate the very obvious flaws this special can have. The core narrative of the story is gone, and what’s presented instead just isn’t as impactful. And that’s not to mention the not very good performances of the leads. Drew Carey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus just don’t have the proper chemistry to make this work. Honestly, even if Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews starred here, I’m doubtful this would have worked.

There’s a reason this continues to be the butt of a joke for Drew Carey to this day. It’s just not very good. Drew Carey doesn’t look like he’s having fun, he doesn’t look like he’s putting his all into his performance, it just falls flat on its face. Yet at the same time, I can’t help feeling kinda happy that I saw it, if not at least to see Brent Spiner in this role. The man knew how to make Stromboli entertaining.

Verdict: 3/10