TV Shows

The Wheel of Time

Based upon the three episodes available on release

I like it. I have no idea what the source material is, or how popular the books might be. For what it is, it’s a nice reprieve on streaming with so little quality shows as of late in the fantasy department. It starts off with an epic scale, and keeps it up. You can see where the show is going with their characters – you can see the journey. Honestly for all the exposition and background given, I’m not too concerned about the details of the lore. I’m watching because I want to see my hero reunited with my other hero while loving and endearing sidekicks A and B develop their own, just as needed, character arcs. The general concept is very cool, the idea of Light vs Dark quite literally, and an evil being known affectionately as the Dark One. A grand hero born each age with the power to destroy or save the world, with the last one choosing to destroy it. The hero is reborn due to the so called Wheel of Time. Lot of reincarnation ideas at play here, and very similar to weaving fate like some certain Greek sisters.

The show itself has a lot of similarities to Lord of the Rings in the journey that the heroes take to reach their goal. A person of great magical power comes to some tiny little backwards town to find an individual that’s the possible reborn hero, called the Dragon Reborn. There’s some creepy evil bad dude in a black cloak riding on a black horse commanding dark forces, and the magic that the women use is called the One Power. There’s a bit more exposition and learning to be had about the world which Amazon does a great job of dripping you with the X-ray feature to inform, and the explore tab on the show’s page.

The costume work is great, the clothes feel of quality. The CGI is well done, and the beastly monsters look like a mix of CGI and motion capture/suit. The whole production feels high quality but there’s just something that feels lacking. A spark. It feels like its rushing to get to the end so that there can be a foundation of which to jump off of. Like “look at how massive and well established this world is. We have so many characters we would like to explore, while also having our cores be well told.” There is much here to dig into, and to delve into philosophical ideas. Such as women are the ones who hold true power because men become blinded mad by it.

The cast does a great job, especially Rosamund Pike as the cold and calculating Moiraine. I have no idea who the rest of them are, they feel like relative newcomers especially the four possible dragon reborn, but I do enjoy their performances. Rand is a thick headed stubborn fool, but loyal. Mat is a roguish thief that would do anything to make sure his sisters are okay, Perrin is a gentle giant with a hidden bloodlust that he fears as its already cost him once, and Egwene is a natural healer, and kindhearted girl. We also have Lan, a warder of Moiraine, which I’m not quite sure what it is – possibly some sort of personal lifelong bodyguard. They start their quest off together but because we need to create methods to explore our main 4, and to give them hardships, we break off early on and explore different paths trying to get to the same outcome.

I really enjoyed the sweeping cinematography, the mountains, the hills, the vast forests. The rivers, and the trees. The budget really went all out, filming in location. I really appreciated it all because it allowed me to be immersed into this world. The score adds nice touches here and there, help accentuate moments of fear or the tension of being chased.

Overall, I really like it so far and I am excited for the next however long it takes to get all the episodes out. I’m sure the journey will be enjoyable and worth it.

Movies

Night Teeth

After I finished watching this movie, and had felt like I enjoyed it, I was curious to see what other people had to say on it. I was surprised to see a negative response to it. Perhaps the genre is better said to be a coming-of-age modern fantasy vampire movie rather than thriller, action, horror and crime as listed. All those elements are merely backdrops to the story of our boy, Benny. His is a simple story amplified by the elements of the supernatural, action horror oriented crowd. Reminded me of Odd Thomas. His plight of being held up on a chauffeur job by a crazy pair of customers also reminded me of Collateral with Tom Cruise. Those movies certainly influenced the idea of the movie. As did any secret society movie, recently popularized by John Wick, influenced Night Teeth, with the world of the vampires and humans that know about it similar to the society of assassins and their counterparts.

Benny, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., is a delight to watch. His character is so likeable and charismatic, and you want to see him make that character arc grow to completion. The amount of foreshadowing present and Chekhov’s gun are enjoyable because the point of a simple story like this is to establish this character. This world. Debby Ryan was nearly recognizable to me, I was just so attuned to the character, to Blaire; she got action hero fit. Anyways, it was a mysterious and fun ride to be taken along with. It also reminded me of Bright with Will Smith, in that it’s a fantasy world set within Los Angeles featuring all the politics that go with it. The pace is consistent, moving you quickly with the flow while still delivering that world building in style. Some negative reviews said it had too much style and little in terms of good story, saying it was predictable and that’s exactly how I feel about Dune 2021 except Night Teeth had an actual ending with a hint of another movie. Dune was like watching LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring, and it ending at Rivendell when the party is gathered. I digress.

The soundtrack was electric and reminded me of cyberpunk/futuristic techno, it helped the scenes flow. The coloring of the movie was soothing, a city of neon lights. The action scenes were brutal but not to the point of being too filled with gore. And the antagonist played by Alfie Allen was nothing to write home about, but he wasn’t terrible either. I liked the other casting roles for that game of “Oh it’s this person!” The final fight was quick and didn’t drag on, but a minor continuity error at the end was funny (watch Jay closely).

Overall, I recommend this movie for a nighttime watch during the spooky month of October. Great movie if you understand that this story is about a coming of age tale, for a young man trapped within a horror story, that’s slick with style.

Movies

Dune 2021

I grew up on reading Frank Herbert’s Dune series as a young child, so naturally, I looked forward to a movie rendition. Maybe it won’t be as bad, or rather as silly as the David Lynch one. Thankfully it’s not. But it has a worse cardinal sin when it comes to telling a story… It needs to tell a story. Denis Villeneuve clearly forgot about that aspect when making this movie. It’s nearly three hours long, and in that time, the main character only goes from his home world, to landing in Arrakis, to meeting up with the Fremen people and then it ends. The character development along the way only exists for the main character, Paul Atreides, and everyone else merely exists at a superficial and severely underdeveloped level. His father is a two dimensional character, as is his weapons master, and his friend Duncan, and his mother is a witch and that’s about it. Oh, and the family doctor who has some sort of connection to them but it’s not really clear or developed, and the gender-switched Fremen character. It seems that in Denis’ own words, “My team and I devoted more than three years of our lives to make it a unique big screen experience.” that he had forgotten to develop the story! Instead he focused on worldbuilding visuals, so many visuals.

The first 2 hours feels like, “here’s some visuals, enjoy! Oh, and listen to this sweet soundtrack! Oh and look at this world that I’ve envisioned! Just look at it all! Isn’t it so pretty?” And the whole time you’re left thinking, “is the story gonna go somewhere?” And just as it finally starts to get interesting, oops, it’s the end. As a character says, “it’s just the beginning.” Sorry to be frank here, but screw you for blue balling the hell out of me with that cliffhanger. Maybe if you made the two movies back to back, and weren’t contingent on making profit on this movie before making the second, I’d have a different opinion. As it stands, this movie on its own, is a testament to not putting visuals before story. First, have a strong and satisfying ending, then focus on what visuals you want to show. And the teasing! About to show a cool reference that’s in the book, a really sweet worm riding experience? Nope, blue balls! That’s not happening, but you thought it was gonna happen, and so now you have an idea what’ll happen in the next movie. Seems Denis Villeneuve just wants to fucking tease the hell out of everyone.

The only two that stand out for acting were Rebecca Ferguson, and Stellan Skarsgard as Paul’s mother and the Baron Harkonnen respectively. Stellan under all that make-up and effects was truly a horrific person and monstrous. Rebecca did a great job as a woman dealing with being both mother to the supposed chosen one, and trying to be a witch for her religion/beliefs. I severely disliked Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides, all I could see was a bourgeoisie rich prick, and not a boy struggling with the idea of being years of careful cultivated breeding and religious propaganda resulting in a Jesus like figure. Yes, let us continue the practice of hiring wealthy and rich well-connected actors instead of those that brought themselves up to a higher degree by their own bootstraps.

The rest of the cast, without me being attacked by the culturally over-sensitive crowd, the Fremen people should have been cast with Arabic actors in the roles. I’ve always felt that Frank Herbert was clearly inspired by Islamic culture and Arabic culture with those characters that he wrote. But Hollywood sees them as the bad guys so they probably thought that it would hurt their profits to do so. And what is really woke and hip to that culturally over-sensitive crowd? Yup, casting black actors wherever they can. That sells.

In closing, I really hope that a second movie is indeed made as then I will gladly change my review to accommodate the fact that the story has an actual ending. And maybe character development. It honestly reminded me of the recent Final Fantasy 7 remake game in which they took roughly 30 minutes of the original game and stretched it out into a full 40 hour game. In which that Denis Villeneuve took what should take 40 minutes plot-wise and stretched it out into nearly 3 hours of visuals. I would have preferred details like that the family doctor cannot hurt his patients because of mental conditioning but due to mental and psychological torture by the Harkonnens, that is why he can. Maybe a bit more on Duncan instead of him being simply a warrior figure. Maybe a bit more than just flashes to his desert life period as one of the Fremen. And lastly, maybe not using these giant – clearly looking like they were 3D printed – costumes of armor for everyone. Why not go the route of simple military fatigues and ceremonial dressing?

Overall, I only recommend it so I can cure my blue balls. By which I mean that they get a profit large enough to warrant a second movie to help alleviate that problem.

Games

Battlefield 5 (PC)

For a game that was released back in November of 2018, DICE has seemingly done little to improve it. It is, without a doubt, a pile of flaming garbage. I didn’t even have time to get around to the multiplayer, I was infuriated by every single design decision in the single player titled “War Stories”. When the CGI videos are far better than any of the content the player does in the campaign, you know you done fucked up. The game’s executive producer, Aleksander Grondal, wrote on Twitter that they would “always put fun over authentic” which is a load of bullshit. There is little to no fun to be had shooting bullet sponge enemies in the single player campaign. In fact, DICE has made a mockery of the events of World War II. I’m sure many of their ancestors are rolling over in their graves for this, lack of a better word, injustice to real events.

The game also commits the cardinal sin of thrusting you into the middle of a prologue without letting you adjust settings first. Yes, let’s overheat my PC while I wait roughly 10 minutes or so before I can adjust settings. First you should let a player come to the main menu and if they want to, let them play the prologue. Not force them into a mini-campaign they have no want to play. Clearly, whoever came up with that idea lacks the mental fortitude to think critically. I’m surprised they have a job designing. But it’s EA, they’ll throw money at anyone.

Many of the missions revolve around stealth. You’d think with the years of creating single player campaigns, that they would have the experience and technical know-how to create an immersive and fun atmosphere. Well, you’d be wrong. They are clearly a small indie company. Enemies take anywhere from 2-10 bullets to die. Shoot them in the head with a pistol takes two, even if you shoot them in the face. Flamethrower users take at least 8-12 bullets to kill, even though they have no extra armor. Same with officers, they don’t have armor and yet, take several shots to drop. Oh, I mentioned stealth, well if you shoot someone, even with a suppressed weapon, and you happen to be several hundred meters away, every enemy in the vicinity immediately becomes aware of your position, and proceeds to light you up with near perfect accuracy. Fun, right?

Each mission has a goal, and hidden collectibles within – called letters – and as well as challenges to complete. Sometimes those challenges are to complete the mission without being detected, but with the aforementioned problems, even if you reload a checkpoint when being discovered, you’ll have to restart the entire mission because it’ll still count as you being found. There’s also alarms which the enemy can activate that’ll draw in enemy reinforcements. You can get close and disable it with a command, or you can shoot it. But wait, not all guns are strong enough to do so. Shooting it with a sniper rifle doesn’t work half the time. Gotta get closer. Oh wait, what about stealth – doesn’t matter anymore, you’re being shot at by the omniscient enemies.

Oh, there’s also vehicles. Like a plane, for instance. But the mouse and keyboard default controls borderline on unusable which again leads me to think that the designer responsible lacks a brain. Bunch of monkeys mashing the keys it seems like.

Overall, even though I got it on sale for 6 bucks, I regret purchasing it. That money would have been better spent on laxatives, and I would have had more fun than the several hours I spent playing this. And judging by the beta for their newest game in the battlefield series, the last thing DICE cares about is having fun and they just want your money. It would be better if nobody ever bought their games again, and forced them to really consider making a proper game with fundamentals that aren’t broken, and you know, a proper campaign like they did once, long ago, with Bad Company 2.

Movies

The Guilty

I went into this blind with no knowledge of the movie’s origin until the end credits rolled where upon I learned it’s a remake of a Danish film by the same name. As a result my review is unbiased like so many others that compare it to the original it’s adapted from. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as police dispatcher Joe Baylor as he goes about his night fielding calls until one comes in from an apparent abduction. He takes it upon himself to ensure the woman’s return to her daughter and along the way uncovered truths about the abduction and we learn more about his character. He is a flawed man, angry, emotional and an asshole. You can tell his coworkers have a clear opinion about him, and his relationship with his separated wife is on the brink of no contact. He can’t see his daughter, and he has some court hearing to attend to in the morning.

The movie is directed by Antoine Fuqua, of Training Day fame alongside many others, and he expertly helms the direction, showing us how our own perceptions of a situation may be flawed and this in turn influences what we believe to be the correct course of action. The writing was excellent, and I’ve read that it’s a near word for word adaptation of the original film. The movie is very tense and moves along at a good pace. More and more voices are brought on until there’s just a few main ones which Joe interacts with. This movie is basically a character piece focused on Joe and therefore it is up to the strength of Jake Gyllenhaal to keep us entranced. To which he does with great success.

Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it for a watch. I have no knowledge of the original and as such, if you’ve seen that movie, I don’t know if you’d like this one since you would already know what would happen.