TV Shows

Ms. Marvel

This was the first Marvel show that felt like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant pond. The formulaic pattern to all their shows and movies left one wondering if it was possible to interject new life into it all. Yet, there was a spark here, and it blossomed into a wonderful tale about a young, Muslim girl, who struggles to find her own identity as she clashes with a clandestine organization, a shadowy government agency and all that comes with growing up in a culturally rich household. The relationship of her character with her well-meaning Pakistani family and the culture clash that arises with the notion of superheroes, is given room to play out. At the center of all this, is newcomer actress Iman Vellani, in her first onscreen role, who is just a delight to behold.

Early on, across the six episodes that make up the miniseries, there’s a scene between Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her parents. They want to take her to the comic-con she’s been wanting to go, on the condition her dad takes her. He’s so excited, and even dressed up as Hulk in an attempt to connect with his daughter. But in a typical teenage fashion, she bungles it up, disappoints her parents, and hurts her dad’s feelings. It was the acting of Iman in that scene that ultimately connected me with her character, and her depiction of the character. She expertly portrayed the various emotions that come in such a scene. Of feeling guilty, and about to cry upon the realization that you made your parents upset. That you directly caused the tears in your dad’s eye. Her acting here was nothing short of amazing, especially for a newcomer.

The story is not without its faults, such as having villains with not enough character development established to explain why’d they do things. This results in it feeling rushed, that the villains rushed through to try and get to their victory. It takes away from the excellent world building, and character development that’s happened so far. Yet even with all that, it manages to finish strong. Its strength lies in the familial story arcs. Of Kamala’s parents and their relationship to their superhero daughter or of being accepted by the community despite being a Muslim hero with a dazzling set of powers. And speaking of powers, the changes to her powerset from the comics is perfectly okay because this is a character that is all about her identity within the community, and her religion clashing with her identity as a superhero. Individuals don’t relate to the character because she can stretch her arms, or change into another person. They relate because they’ve known that struggle of being different, of being an ethnic immigrant struggling compared to your Caucasian neighbors. The culture clash that inevitably arises.

The CGI is on par with current Marvel miniseries outings, and the musical score was truly impeccable. I loved the fusion of Indian/Pakistani music and hip-hop beats to create this stylistic fresh take on the urban hero. It really helped add to her cultural identity. The creative use of CGI to demonstrate conversation also helped it to stand out. The supporting cast was good, especially Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s mom and Mohan Kapur as Kamala’s dad.

Overall, I really liked the show. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be “wholesome”. And it really helps that the lead actress, Iman Vellani is so endearing in her portrayal of Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel.

TV Shows

The Terminal List

It’s been awhile, folks. Of course, a military show with propaganda smelled a mile off would certainly get me back. Chris Pratt as Navy Seal Operator James Reece, with “why are you spending good money on him” Taylor Kitsch as his buddy Ben Edwards, and Constance Wu as the tough but determined reporter seeking the truth. Add a mix of “oh hey, I recognize him/her/them” and a bit of well-executed action sequences with a focus on reloading – oh my!

Naturally, I attempted to view it all in one sitting. It was a fun ride and I’m left with some plot related questions towards the end, but I enjoyed it all. It definitely is a love it or hate it type deal. No overseas baddies here. Nothing but homegrown, domestic greed. A show about a trained weapon shaking up the tree, searching for the snakes that fall out. At first, it feels like a very cookie-cutter generic American military thriller that’s been coming out recently on Amazon Video. Then the hook arrives near the end of the first episode, and I’m all for the murder in the name of revenge. Reminded me of Punisher with Thomas Jane, similar storyline; that is, a man with nothing left to lose and nothing left to live for but revenge.

In a rare twist for me, I enjoyed Jai Courtney’s performance as the pompous rich guy that gets his due comeuppance. Precisely because of that delivered justice. It was worth having to see him act in a movie for once. There’s a dude that I recognized from Banshee (great show, still working on that one), some dude playing an FBI agent I recognized from somewhere. And an actress from older movies I haven’t seen in some time, and older viewers would definitely recognize.

Overall, I liked it. The somewhat strong religious overtones outlined in the opening episode made it go off to a great start. I could also see why the devout Chris Pratt would be drawn to the role, and why nepotism would get one of the actors in the movie a role (brother in law). Thankfully, just a minor role. And the world wouldn’t run without it. Nice callouts plot wise to the plight of veterans, and how easily they could theoretically turn to taking action against elements of the government. And with the recent events of the pandemic in the world, having a plot element of testing medication to an unknown mass of individuals… Well, ain’t that just dandy!

TV Shows

Stranger Things Season 4

Having just finished the 7th episode, I like how everything came together before we get the last two episodes by July 1st. There was emotional satisfaction and payoffs, and we can see where the show will go next. Each episode felt like a movie in its own right, especially that seventh one coming in 1hr40mins long. The production value was top-notch, and it was clear to see that the Duffer Brothers had put long hours of thought into it. The level of care and detail, and overlapping themes while bringing attention to the earlier seasons was nothing short of a masterstroke.

This season parallels the themes and plot of the first, with Eleven having to come into being her own person. And acquiring super powers. The big bad was well established early on, with clues being feed dripped slowly to uncover its true identity. The horror was on point, with both the supernatural and that of a mob mentality – especially that of narrow-minded, religious small towns. It didn’t shy away from showing the brutality of it all; of dead children, traitors in both US and Russia – the torture that accompanies both sides, and the grotesque nature of the monsters.

The acting was excellent as usual from these group of kids… well now, teens or young adults. Some seem to have grown up faster than the rest, like Lucas. Though that’s probably due to him being older than the others playing his friends. I enjoyed David Harbour’s performance the best, as the grizzled American prisoner in a Russian gulag. And I liked the actor playing the guard turned friend, Tom Wlaschiha as Antonov.

The electronic synth soundtrack was a joy to my ears, being a fan of that genre. It added well to the immersion factor of the 80s we’ve come to know for Stranger Things. Costume design was on point as well.

Overall, I quite liked this season. They tuned down the Russians from being the bad guys to merely being the opposition that happens to exist in their world. The bad guys are established this time around as some evil entity from the Upside Down dimension, and the US general hunting down Eleven and the scientists helping her. There is a lot of various political messages I could probably get into, but I’d rather not. I turned off my brain mostly, and enjoyed this fantasy sci-fi horror show. I’m excited for the end.

TV Shows

Outer Range

What is this growing fascination with telling incomplete stories? Is it greed? A cowardly nature? I think it’s both. A show creator is too cowardly to tell the story he/she wants lest they get lambasted for it and they want more money out of the studios so they can keep telling their half-story. Outer Range started off with so much potential, and by the end, we are blue-balled once again wanting answers. It doesn’t matter to me how well the visuals are, how well acted it is, or if the writing/dialogue is solid. If you don’t tell me a full story, and you leave more questions than answers, then I will not like your work. Plain and simple. Same reasoning why I severely disliked Dune despite it being excellent in all other fronts. Tell me a complete story. This is why Korean TV shows have such a high standard of excellence, because they know to tell a full story. To not linger with half-truths, and cliffhangers.

Outer Range stars Josh Brolin as Royal Abbot, a rancher with a mysterious past. His two sons, Rhett (Lewis Pullman) and Perry (Tom Pelphrey) get into a brawl with the neighbor’s kid, Trevor Tillerman, that results in his death. The Abbot family covers it up and deals with the consequences that follow. In the meantime, newcomer Autumn shows up and asks to stay on their land. Royal finds a mysterious hole in the ground and deals with that mystery.

The show is a very slow burn with next to little pay off. It is not worth watching the first season as you’ll be left with more questions than answers. If the show creator, Brian Watkins, wants to make multiple seasons for the show then it should have been announced at the front of the Amazon page. Had I known that, I would have altered my expectations. Everything revealed so far was foreshadowed and obvious from the get-go. All of the revelations were nothing new.

There was some philosophical pandering nonsense about God throughout the series, and lemme say, why do people associate God with all the bad things? Did they forget the devil exists? Satan is the one that brings the bad; God is good. Then there was the obligatory LGBQT+ plotline that was necessary, and to add double to the pandering to the ‘woke’ crowd, it was a lesbian Native American. Strike two issues down with one stone. It added nothing to the plot. It was a colossal waste of time learning about Sheriff Joy (Tamara Podemski), it was simply political pandering. If I wanted that, I would have watched a Netflix show.

Given my feelings aside, if you like Yellowstone mixed with science fiction then I’m sure you’d like this science fiction neo-western. If you liked Dune, then you’d enjoy this as well. Josh Brolin did a phenomenal job acting, as did Lili Taylor playing his wife, Cecilia Abbot. In fact, everyone did a great job in their roles. You really grew to dislike several characters, and love others. But given the nature of the ending, I, myself, cannot recommend this show. Though, that shouldn’t stop you from watching it and making your own opinion.

Movies

One Shot and Black Site

Oh look, two movies with very similar plots released within a year of each other. A common occurrence, like Armageddon and Deep Impact. The movie, One Shot, is a smaller budget movie than Black Site due to the actors involved. One has action B-stars, and the other has formerly A-list stars.

One Shot was a fun experiment in a long continuous take, with much of the action showed with as little cuts as possible. Often using misdirection to make it seem like one continuous take. It starred Scott Adkins as a Navy SEAL, Ashley Greene as a CIA analyst and Ryan Phillipe as the station chief of the black ops detention facility. When it falls under attack by hundreds of insurgents, they must work together to get a high priority target out safely into order to find a nuclear bomb hidden on US soil.

The action was definitely B movie tier, but it was fun to watch. It was relentless, and enjoyable for if you’re in the mood for an hour and a half of non-stop action. The plot was minimal, it was merely a vehicle to deliver the action. Of which it came in spades. Minor issues with bad guys having unlimited ammo while the good guys had to reload, but good sound quality overall. I liked it.

Black Site goes the other direction, with a focus on story and development over action. Even then, it suffers the same issue as One Shot did which is the unbelievability of how the main bad guys enter the place. At the same time, it’s quite enjoyable to see American intelligence and military as being incompetent. And the slight digs at the CIA and Mossad are a nice little treat. We have Michelle Monaghan as a CIA analyst with personal ties to the bad guy, Jai Courtney as soldier Miller (he’s good at playing bullies), and Jason Clarke as the sadistic bad guy called Hatchet. We also have a relative newcomer, Phoenix Raei as the Israeli Mossad agent called Uri.

When incompetent delta forces fail to interrogate Hatchet, the base goes on lockdown and they have one hour to restore communications lest they be hit by a drone strike by their own nation, the United States. What follows is hilariously bad attempts at re-securing their own base, while Hatchet goes around brutally killing the inhabitants.

In both movies, the target of the bad guy(s) is a businessman with alleged ties to terrorist organizations and we do not know if he’s a head honcho or merely just a puppet.

Somebody needs to tell the action choreographer or the guy in charge of effects for Black Site, that guns have recoil. It is a sad attempt to not have any when the blood effects were on point. Also if you’re supposedly a trained soldier or ex-soldier, you’d know when picking up a gun to check ammo/that it works right.

Overall, I’d recommend Black Site for the story because it has threads of truth to it. While I would recommend One Shot for the action.