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Charmed: The Enemy of My Frenemy (2020)
Okay episode. Didn't knock my socks off but did advance the plot. I'll be honest, I'm getting a little tired of the demon world politics.
DuckTales: Quack Pack! (2020)
Love this episode!
This may be one of my favorite episodes from the show. It's a great look at nineties television, including references to Ducktales and Quack Pack. Very funny with a dark edge to it.
A predictable plot and subplot is lifted by great jokes and dialogue.
Ultimately neither better nor worse than the first one
So, I've got free time on my hands what with the corona virus and was weirdly curious about the decision to make a computer-animated remake of an individual Pokemon movie. I watched the two back-to-back and, yeah, this is ultimately the same as first one: not particularly bad or good.
This is basically Gus van Sant's Psycho. It's the same film, just with slightly different dialogue and the occasional slightly different moment. (Sometimes, the dialogue is exactly the same.) Heck, the original director Kunihiko Yuyama is a co-director on this. (Fun fact: he has directed the majority of the Pokemon films since the nineties.)
I've only seen the dubs. I mostly found the original one better written than this.
The original English version had part of Mewtwo's backstory, which made it sadder, cut. Nowadays American distributors are far more likely to distribute the original products untouched, however the Japanese creators decided to drop this part all together which is unfortunate and I feel let down that they didn't stick to their original guns if they were just doing the same story over again, anyway.
As for the story in general, it suffers from too much setup and dialogue from the main antagonist Mewtwo. However, there are a couple of surprisingly well done emotional moments in the final act and the villain is fleshed out in his motivations. The movie also manages to stand out among most of the many, many other Pokemon films by being darker and having a pseudo neo-gothic feel to it.
As for the computer animation, it all looks good and is well designed. The weather, aerial fights, and the ending credits particularly standout. On the other hand, there are a couple moments where the computer animation isn't able to tell the story as well as the original's 2D animation did.
I don't know if this movie justifies its existence, but it doesn't feel like a slap in the face to its predecessor either. Overall, if your kids like Pokemon, they'll like this. If you're nostalgic toward the first film then you might find this interesting. However, if you're not into Pokemon, this won't do anything for you.
Vagrant Queen: Yippee Ki Yay (2020)
Story coming along nicely
A nice look into the past relationship between Elida and and Isaac. Also, fairly funny.
Westworld: The Mother of Exiles (2020)
Excellently written episode! All the characters' stories are balanced so well.
A real turning point for everything. All the characters get some great moments.
Dragon Quest: Your Story (2019)
Decent, but not perfect
The computer animated Dragon Quest: You're Story is based on the plot of the video game Dragon Quest V from the 90's. It's alright.
The biggest issue with this is that it's trying to cover the plot of a game that spans the main character's life over thirty years and takes several hours to complete within the span of an hour and forty-three minutes. This really feels like a highlight reel. A lot of tonal switches, too. The lead Luca's first third of his story is really glossed over quickly. The intro starts with using images from the original game, but it's really confusing to those new to the story. Too many characters are introduced too quickly through tiny pixel images and it's hard to tell who is who and what's going on.
That having been said, this film is a nice ride. It's got a sense of fun to it and definitely captures the feel to the games. The computer animation is bright and colorful. The trademark DQ series character design from Akira Toriyama (also the creator of Dragonball Z) is adapted pretty well into 3D animation.
Also, this may be worth sticking through to the finale. I don't think everyone's going to like it, but it's definitely something.
Overall, this is something I probably won't revisit, but glad I did. I think DQ fans will probably like this. I think this may go over well with children, too.
Westworld: Parce Domine (2020)
Things are going in a different direction and I like it. Really like how Dolores is being handled and the design of the future world.
This special episode of Carmen Sandiego is one of those interactive/choose-your own adventure works that have been popping up on Netflix. It was entertaining enough.
This is one of those versions where your choices can result in sudden game over and you're sent back to your last decision. You always only have two decisions. This results in a limited number of different plots you can really follow. I was done after my second watch.
That having been said, I do recommend this. This is an excuse to gather a lot of the characters together. They're all lively, especially the villains.There is also one thing they did differently from other multiple choice stories that I think you might like.
I found Bloodshot, a film adaptation of the Valiant comic book superhero, to be a so-so film. The sad thing about this movie is that it is one of those movies that are so close to be being a good film but can't quite reach.
There are several positivie parts in this. There are some clever or funny lines of dialogue. Undone's Siddharth Dhananjay is the standout in this as a comic relief coder.
I give first time director Dave Wilson, who is a video game cinematics guy, does a pretty competent job cinematography/visuals-wise for his first live-action work. The whole thing looks great, except maybe for some CG effects that stand out too much. The villains' technology is well designed and thought out. Fight scenes work well; the first one in particular is really impressive.
However, the plot never grabs you. I didn't feel involved in Bloodshot's journey or in anticipation for what happens. The script just wasn't interesting enough. For every line that works there is one that doesn't. The villain's plans feel undercooked. The most frustrating part is that Outlander's Sam Heughan's character's animosity toward Bloodshot feels so painfully forced and unnatural.
I could see many people liking this more than me. Like I said, there are some good parts. Just have lowered expectations when going into this. I don't think this is bad, per se. It just doesn't leave a mark. I have no plans to revisit this in the future.
Playdate with Destiny (2020)
In this silent Simpsons short film that appeared before Onward in theaters, baby Maggie tries to reconnect with a boy she met at the playground. This is neither good nor bad, just there.
A little background: This is a sequel of sorts to the previous Maggie Simpson short The Longest Daycare. They're similar in format, silent and filmed from the angle of Maggie's point of view. Playdate's issue is that it pales in comparison to its predecessor. Daycare had the better jokes, rhythm and direction. More importantly, it was original. This just feels like it's trying too hard to recapture lightning in a bottle.
There are some funny moments, especially one at the beginning, but mostly this short just coasts. Animation is good for what it is. Again the effort given to show the world from Maggie's height is commendable.
You might get more out of this if you haven't seen Longest Daycare, and if you're a Simpsons completionist, go nuts. However, this isn't anything anyone really needs to take the effort to see. (I do encourage you to see Longest Daycare if you haven't yet. It's free and legally/officially available on Youtube.)
There are some excellent emotional moments in this
Again, Pixar comes up with a rather fresh concept, fantasy creatures in a modern times world, with some strong emotional moments. It was an excellent idea to make the film about the two brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) going on a quest to briefly reunite with the the late father they never knew or barely remember. It is a very heartfelt tale: wanting to connect with a relative you never knew. The connection between the two brothers (one's the shy guy who isn't into magic but can do it and the other is the outgoing, immature one who is into magic but can't do it) is handled really well. The ending may be up there with some of Pixar's great moments.
The movie has a fine cast of characters and voice actors. Chris Pratt is the VIP here. Yeah, he is doing a variation of the typical Pratt kind of character, but he is good enough that Barley is distinguishable from his other characters. He especially does a well with Barley's more sympathetic moments.
I was a little at odds at whether I should rate this a little higher. Ultimately I realized that while this is up there with some of Pixar's better films this wasn't in their top tier. Onward is mostly a road trip movie and it had the issues that I felt were in Up or some of Pixar's other road trip movies in that the creators have some great core ideas but feel like they were throwing in whatever they could to fill out the movie. This could've been shorter and the third act in particular feels like the film is stretching. There are also moments where Ian, when he's being shy or angry, is too underwritten or stereotypically portrayed.
I'm not the biggest fan of the character design in this. It feels a little simple compared to other Pixar films almost as if this was designed by a different studio. I know that a lot of animators prefer more simple designs because it makes animating or character expression easier. Personally as a viewer, I prefer when a character looks better defined. I especially don't like the way they made the elves' tragus in their ears. (The part of the outer ear that sort of covers the earhole). They look like quarters.
Criticisms aside when this movie is good it's really good, and I highly recommend it.
Love this show
This is the one that started off the CW/DC superhero Arrowverse and is one of my favorite superhero shows.
Arrow took the character of the Green Arrow and made him more serious than previously depicted. Stephen Amell does an excellent job as The Green Arrow/Oliver Queen, a man on a mission with the weight of the world on his shoulders. The actor does an excellent job with the characters' emotional beats. The entire supporting cast in this is really good. (Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance doesn't get the quite the best writing or direction or give the best performance at the beginning, but by the end she's one of my favorite characters.) The fight choreography is really good.
The biggest flaw of the show is that it does suffer from a lot of events or character decisions that serve to advance the plot but just don't feel natural.
Throughout Arrow's eight-season run there is some significant fluctuation in quality. The first two seasons are excellent. (I fear the show was never able to go quite as dark due to the expansion of the Arrowverse and its more lighthearted or fantastic elements affecting Arrow.) The second half of the third and the full fourth season really go downhill. However, the show picks up again after that. (A lot of fans dislike season six. I disagree. Don't get me wrong, there is a plot element that is really frustrating and poorly written, but I think the season as a whole works.)
I highly recommend this.
The Good Place (2016)
One of the best comedies ever
In The Good Place, Eleanor Shellstrop (Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell), who isn't the best person, dies and finds herself in "The Good Place" only to realize that she's been mistaken for the wrong Eleanor. What results is one of the best and most original network comedies I've ever seen.
The Good Place is so funny with so many great lines. This is a very serialized comedy. I appreciate that showrunner Michael Schur isn't a fan of letting plot points drag out. The audience is catapulted from new thing to new thing. This show is so creative. (It mixes comedy with the philosophy of morality, which surprisingly works.) I also really liked the bright, colorful design of the afterlife and the costume design.
However, it is the cast and characters who really make this work. Bell is great as the sassy Eleanor. William Jackson Harper is equally good as Chidi Anagonye, the philosophy professor who tries to help her be a better person. He does a great job as the anxious one who tries to deal with the insanity around him. I simply don't have time to go into detail on the rest of the cast. They're all great, even the recurring roles.
The first season is pure perfection. Admittedly, the subsequent seasons never quite hit that level, but they're all still good, especially season 3, and a step above a lot of other network comedies. I appreciate that Schur decided to keep this to four seasons. He told the story he wanted to tell and skipped the risk of filler. I do admit there are some episodes, particularly later on, where the writers can be more interested in the story than telling jokes. The final episode is up there with some of the best finales ever made.
I cannot recommend this enough.
The Invisible Man (2020)
Strength lies in its direction
In this new version of The Invisible Man, Cecilia Kass (Handmaid's Tale's Elisabeth Moss), has escaped her abusive, controlling boyfriend (Haunting of Hill House's Oliver-Jackson Cohen). He's been declared dead, but she finds herself menaced by this unseen force. This was a decent film.
Though there is violence, this is one of those films that relies on more on suspense, and it's done really, really well. Rather than kill Cecilia, the invisible man is trying to ruin her life. He's subtle at first and there is a lot of tension wondering if he's in the room or not and what he's going to do next. And when stuff happens, it can be pretty startling at times.
The movie looks great. Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Insidious 3 & 4) continuous his style: a starkly lit look. There are a lot of nice wide shots and pans to give the impression that Cecilia is being watched. (However, I thought that the opening scene was a little too darkly lit.)
Moss, whose character is the biggest part of the film, does an excellent job portraying a woman going through trauma but is also wily when threatened.
This isn't a perfect movie, though. Running at two hours and four minutes this didn't have to be that long. There are too many scenes of Cecilia being freaked out or people not believing her. The antagonist's plan didn't have to be that complicated. (Though it does mostly make sense in the long run. I've seen other movies with this level of intricacy that couldn't pull it off.) Also, there are several lines of dialogue and decisions that don't feel natural.
Overall, I don't think you need to see this immediately, but if you like suspense then this if for you.
Locke & Key (2020)
Based on the comic by Joe Hill, Locke & Key is about the Locke family who move into their father's old family home after his murder. The three kids begin to discover magical keys hidden within the house. I rather liked this one.
This show is sorta a teenage-oriented dark fantasy. Light and dark are interestingly combined. The Locke siblings have a good time with the keys, which present a series of fun, fantastic moments. However, the threat in this is serious and there are some striking moments of darkness. I think this works pretty well, but there are a couple moments where the lighter parts feel too light. Specifically, the youngest son Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) feels like the writers were trying too hard to make him sound precocious.
The characters' personal conflicts and relationships are well handled. I'm pleased that the non-fantasy elements of this show didn't lose my interest. There are a lot of supporting characters in this and they all gel. I thought the acting was decent with the exception of Darby Stanchfield as the mom. Her facial expressions and vocal tones often don't match the situation.
As for the visuals, the house looks good. The magical moments really pop. However, I wasn't a fan of the grayish lighting for this. The opening credits also look pretty nice and I was disappointed they got shortened within a few episodes.
Overall, this was a nice surprise. Although, I'd say this was a give-it-a-shot-if-you-have-the-time-show, not a see-immediately show.
Brahms: The Boy II (2020)
Just see the first; skip this
In Brahms, a boy finds the titular creepy doll from the last installment and soon falls under its sway. The original The Boy was a decent suspense horror. This, however, is a very dissatisfying follow-up.
It's been said by practically everyone who saw the first film, but it has to be said, that Brahms actively throws out the setup it was given. It's like if Friday the 13th Part 3 revealed that Jason Vorhees was an alien robot the entire time. They take the one element from the original that truly, really made it work and separated it from all the other haunted doll movies and completely disacknowledged that element. What makes this all really weird is that there wasn't a regime change. The original director and writer were heavily messing with their own work.
This is a pretty dull film. The plot is mostly predictable so you aren't surprised much except for a couple moments. Things just drag on. The parents in this make a couple really dumb decisions in this.
To the movie's credit, it does look nice. I liked the interior to all the houses. The cinematography is good. Also, there are a couple scares that work well.
Still, as a whole there isn't much to recommend about this. I wouldn't say there is anything painfully bad about Brahms but there really isn't that much to entertain. Fans of the original will especially be disappointed.
BoJack Horseman (2014)
Superb dark comedy
In a world populated by both people and anthropomorphic animals, Bojack Horseman (voiced by Arrested Development and SNL's Will Arnett) follows the life of the titular horse, a former sitcom star. Bojack isn't the best person and has a lot of emotional and mental issues. I loved this show and consider it one of the best adult animated programs of all time.
This dark comedy is an excellent analysis of human nature, mental health, and the question of redemption. Be prepared that Bojack really does some awful things, though the show wisely paces them out. Yet, the show also manages to make you feel for Bojack. To clarify, the show never validates his actions. In fact, there is self-criticism of the its own anti-hero genre. The writing, characterization, and use of continuity in this show is EXCELLENT.
Though the last paragraph makes this sound super dramatic, there's plenty of comedy and it's really, really funny. There is some really cutting satire of Hollywood and showbusiness. The show does a good job of balancing the darker aspects with lighter stuff. Bojack's goofy, carefree longtime house guest Todd (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) is a great balance with his wacky misadventures.
Also, this is that rare show that never drops a beat. All six seasons are quality, including the last one whose cancellation was sudden.
I can't recommend this enough. This show is pure genius.
Ni no Kuni (2019)
The anime movie Ni no Kuni, now out on Netflix, is based on the video games of the same name. It isn't based on the story of the first one but takes place within the games' chronology. In it, two high school friends find themselves transported from our world into the magical world of Ni no Kuni.
Admittedly, this is kind of a basic fantasy story structure in sort of a basic fantasy land, but it is a well handled film. Everything about this is generally fun. I rather liked the mechanics of the connections between our world and Ni no Kuni. The dynamic between and motivations behind the two leads are strong. I particularly liked Yuu, the wheelchair-bound one who is brave, intelligent, and cool headed.
If you're familiar, the first Ni no Kuni game included animation from Studio Ghibli. In fact, the director Yoshiyuki Momose was animator for the studio. Now, this doesn't have quite the level of detail of Ghibli or the games, but it still all looks pretty nice.
Be forewarned that there is a moment with an adult character talking about a seventeen year-old's attractiveness that gets uncomfortable. It is over and done with very quickly.
Overall, I'm glad I saw this on a whim. It's a nice little time waster and a bit of a feel good film.
Fantasy Island (2020)
Flawed but has its merits
Fantasy Island, based on the 70's TV show, takes the concept of the original, an island where your dreams come true, and adds a dark twist to the proceedings as a group of visitors find their dreams becoming nightmares. I know making a different genre out of a show whose star has faded may seem like an odd choice, but they did make two successful comedies based on 21 Jump Street. Plus the nice thing about working with a property that the newer generation was never familiar with is that you get leeway with creative changes. (Note to self: work on script for Petticoat Junction political thriller.) I don't think this is perfect, but it is an interesting watch.
This actually honors the feel of the original far more than the commercials made me thought it was going to. A good part of the beginning and middle is looking at the characters' fantasies before anything goes crazy. (This PG-13 film is kind of more a dark fantasy than full horror.) All the characters have their personal conflicts and lessons. Each fantasy is distinct and I found them all rather interesting. There were a lot more twist and turns than I'd anticipated.
Though there was a lot I liked about this, it could've been better. It's one of those cases where the director/writers had good ideas and came from a positive place but couldn't reach their full potential. The dialogue is often basic or just weak. The actors aren't able to do much with it. We're talking about a cast with experience too, not a bunch of newbies. Pretty Little Liars' Lucy Hale particularly fumbles and Michael Pena as Mr. Roarke, the one running the island, is hit-and-miss.
A lot of people are downright hating this movie. I think that's bit much. Personally, I think it'so-so at worst. I think it's worth your risk seeing it at some point. It feels a little different than most films.
Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
Better than expected
I found this to be a good time.
I felt that Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz, Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Rec) had a surprisingly sympathetic backstory/character arc There are a lot funny lines in this that will also work with adults.
Effects and action-wise the movie does a good job of depicting the hedgehog's superspeed and his attack abilities. Dr. Robotnik's robots are also well designed and I like their sleek look. I'm especially pleased that the studio took the time to change Sonic's appearance after the world first got their look at the attempt to make him more realistic. (Kind of creepy. Everyone's complaining about the human teeth, but it was his weird suction-esque lips that weirded me out.) He looks good in this. I think some of the lighting on him doesn't always match the scene but this is a nitpick considering that the computer animators had to redo the character within a short amount of time.
Bare in mind that this isn't the ideal Sonic story I'd have gone with. This takes place on Earth, so we see very of Sonic's distinctively imaginative video game world and most of his supporting characters. (Yeah, a lot of people don't like a lot of Sonic's growing number of ancillary characters, but I think most of us would've liked to see him alongside Tails or Knuckles.) One wonders why this had to be live action instead of entirely computer animated. This taking place on Earth is hurt more by the fact that this goes with a basic odd-couple-on-the-road-together-scenario. Moments where Sonic and his human friend (X-Men and Westworld's James Marsden) get into heated disagreements can feel forced. Also, Marsden's character has an at times frustratingly one-dimensional disapproving sister-in-law.
Schwartz was a really good choice for Sonic. He has an energetic delivery. Though Jim Carrey doesn't have the round physique of the original Dr. Robotnik, he does an excellent job as a completely egotistical madman. The actor has some of the best lines in the movie, maintaining his gift for improv while never feeling like he is out of character. Credit should also be given to Lee Majdoub who does a pretty good job acting off of Carrey as Robotnik's put-upon assistant.
Compared to the other recent video game-based family film Detective Pikachu, this isn't quite as good. The movie just isnt' as ambitious or innovative. Still, this is a nice film the kids should like.
Troop Zero (2019)
Fun if predictable movie
In Troop Zero, based on the play Christmas and Jubilee Behold The Meteor Shower, during the 1970s' young astronomy-nut Christmas Flint (McKenna Grace who played the Warrens' daughter in Annabelle Comes Home) decides to form her own Birdie Scouts troop in order to enter a talent show and win the opportunity to have her voice recorded and shot into space.
This is a very predictable misfits-stand-up-to-society-type, but it does it well. You get some really good dialogue, plus you get a cast of eccentric characters.
Grace does an excellent job as the quirky Christmas. We're also treated to a trio of fine adult actors: Jim Gaffigan as Christmas' father, Viola Davis as her scout leader, and Allison Janney as a rival scout leader. The last two are particularly good with both actresses delivering some deliciously cutting remarks in this.
Overall, I feel this is a fun little time waster.
A lot of fun
BoP is just a genuinely fun time with a unique style. It runs at a breezy pace with a diverse cast of distinctive and interesting characters. The movie is an interesting mixture of live-action cartoon, spaghetti western, crime saga, and more flamboyant superhero flick. I must especially stress the crime saga aspect. What separates this from a lot of other superhero films is the emphasis on the multiple interconnected storylines that all mesh together at the end.
Director Cathy Yan brings a unique style to the whole thing. Pacing is tight. Music is good. The costumes and sets have this fascinating combo of bright seventies/eighties pop and the inner city and the criminal world. Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this.
Margot Robbie does an excellent job as Harley. Though her Brooklyn accent never sounds quite convincing, she appears to be having a ball. The entire cast is good and I just don't have enough time to mention them all.
Admittedly, this is a very lightweight film. Even the comedic Deadpool movies had more of a stronger emotional backbone for the characters. To clarify, this shouldn't be put on the same level of lightweight superhero films of old, specifically Batman Forever or Batman and Robin. Effort is put into building this world.
And yeah, what everyone else has been saying is true. There aren't a lot of Birds of Prey in this Birds of Prey movie. Though all the BoP members have their moments to shine, this is a Harley Quinn movie. This kind of feels like a backdoor pilot for the superhero team. I'm especially disappointed we didn't get more time with Huntress (Cloverfield Lane and Fargo season 3's Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who gets the least amount of screentime.
It's also true that fans of the BoP comics may be disappointed in certain changes from them. In particular, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Baso) who originally was an assassin trained from birth and one-time Batgirl is now a sterotypical streetwise latchkey kid.
Just a heads up that though this R-rated movie is trying to have fun and may not be super dark like the recent Joker there are a couple moments that may be a bit much for some. The villains Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and Victor Zsaz (Chris Messina) do a few pretty messed up things in this. Though I don't think any comic book movie in recent memory has done such a good job of making you hate the villains.
Overall, I can't say this is the most substantive superhero film, but it's such a joy to watch.
Star Wars: Resistance (2018)
Resistance is the weakest of the three recent Star Wars cartoons (the others being Clone Wars and Rebels if you are unaware). It is content to be a basic children's show. There's nothing really wrong with the episodes; they are mostly decent. The show has a nice and diverse cast. I don't see any kid not being entertained by this.
It's just that from an adult Star Wars fan's view that the stories and characters never meet their full potential. Even the series finale felt like it could've been more.
As for the show's appearance, it shifts from regular 3D animation to a cell-shaded-type 3D. The spacecraft and locations look really nice but there is always something a little off with the characters. I think the issue is the lack of line work.
Overall, I can't either recommend this or say you should avoid it. If you want something for your kids to see, it'll do.