TV Shows

Behind Her Eyes

This is one of those shows that if they didn’t lie to you off the start, you never would have watched it. By this, I mean that it is withholding a vital piece of information regarding genre. It says on Netflix that it is a mystery, thriller, and drama but it’s missing the most important piece(s). Those are that it is also a supernatural fantasy. Now it if was just a show about a cheater and his involvement with his secretary who happened to also befriend his wife, and kept it realistic, I’d have enjoyed it much more. As it stands, I can’t help but feel cheated. The ending is seen a mile off and you can’t help but think “please don’t have the ending be what I think it is.” Guess what? It’s exactly the nonsense you thought it would be.

Going into it, I knew I was to be worried seeing that the showrunner is one Steve Lightfoot. He made the spectacularly bad and utter misfire The Punisher for Netflix earlier. I just loathe what he did to that character, and given his terrible writing in that, I felt this would suffer the same. And I was right. Behind Her Eyes felt like somebody watched The Skeleton Key (2005) and decided the ending and villains would be better if they were white. Now technically, I haven’t spoiled anything, but if you’ve ever seen that movie then you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. However, this could merely be a coincidence and the book that which the series was based on, could have had what show ended with as its plot. I never read the book, nor knew of it prior to watching this limited series. I’m just saying, it’s a little too uncanny with the similarities. Though in the Skeleton Key, they use hoodoo magic as the basis and here it’s astral projection.

Spoilers Ahead

Now if we do a deep dive into the ending of the series, and really consider what it means, there’s a lot to unpack here. An oversimplification of events would be that a gay man fell in love with a straight man, but knew that the straight guy would never go for him, so he changed his sex to a female to get with him. If we wanna get technical, it’s rape by deception. Sure, you’re having sex with your wife but inside your wife’s body, there’s a man’s spirit. But then your white husband gets bored of you or scared of you, and falls for a black woman. So now you become the black woman, and resume raping your victim. See what I wrote sounds way worse than what they showed in the series, but it’s what happened. Sounds much more horrible when you actually write it out and think about it. This ending is messed up.

A couple things I wondered were that a) a woman you just recently made acquaintances with, gives you a book that is very clearly someone’s personal journal that should in no way be with her, you just take without question and read it. B) A woman you called psychopathic, sociopathic or god knows what makes essentially a suicide note, and you come running to save her… Literally, all she had to do was not do that and it’d be all happy after. But no, you go to her house, and try and save her by… ASTRAL PROJECTION?! HUH? Honestly, being that dumb, she deserved her fate.

As for the actors themselves, they were pretty good. And pretty good looking, which I mean, they had to be for the erotic thriller aspect of it. Eve Hewson as Adele, the aforementioned psychopath, did really good as a person struggling with mental health issues and Tom Bateman as Dr. David Ferguson did really well at making you feel like he had something sinister going on. Simona Brown as Louise did great as the single mother looking for a connection, and did an excellent job at making me dislike her as a character. Robert Aramayo as Rob was entertaining to say the least, and very insidious. The direction was good, by Erik Richter Strand, but the writing felt off at times. The interactions between Adele and her husband, David, didn’t feel real. It never felt like this is how two people would ever communicate with one another. Like the writing has that specific feel that it was written for this scene and this camerawork. It wasn’t organic or natural. That’s right, Steve Lightfoot once again proving he has no business in TV shows yet somebody keeps giving him money.

Overall, just stay away from this show. It’s not worth the stream, nor is it worth having Netflix look at the viewing numbers and go “Wow, we should give more money to Steve Lightfoot! He sure knows what he’s doing. Boy, what a great showrunner and writer.” Please no, I don’t wanna see another show with his name on it because next time, I’m just gonna skip it. Like you should skip this show.

Movies

The Yin Yang Master: Dream of Eternity

Mild Spoilers Throughout

To preface my review: I understand the philosophical waxing and poetry of the notion of love portrayed in the movie but be that as it may, it is a convoluted mess. The story in its infancy is about an evil immortal serpent that is born out of the desires of humans, namely that of greed. Every few decades it returns to attempt to feed on the world, and 4 masters of various magical arts must come together to defeat the serpent’s physical body. The main character is the one of the title, the Yin Yang master, Qing Ming (Mark Chao). His fellow acquaintance and eventual friend is Bo Ya (Allen Deng). At first, these two are at odds with each other due to their differing viewpoints on demons but they gain a sense of camaraderie during this adventure. Their companionship is one of the philosophical points on love; that is, love for your fellow man and friends – a bromance if you will.

The second point of love, is that of eternal love. In that aspect, it is the love the empress holds. However her body is the vessel for the evil snake spirit and since desires feed that entity, she must be without love. Yet in the end, it is that love which frees the snake because she could not let it go. The way I saw it, was that her love was a toxic kind that only ruins herself and those around her.

This movie was directed and written by Jingming Guo, and while there was some good direction, it is painful to see that there is blatant copying of another movie. Dr. Strange from Marvel was clearly taken for inspiration from, and given the director’s previous problems with plagiarism, it kind of feels like that happened here. The use of hands to create eerily similar portals, down to the orange color and effects is a little bit too on the nose. That aside, the CGI was very well done despite adding little to the story and often had it feel like I was watching a live action anime rather than an original story based on a novel. The acting of the two main characters was good, and everyone else felt bland or fell flat. One character, central to the love plot, He Shouyue, felt like nothing but a pretty face and body. At 132 mins long, I was bored. Some moments did captivate me due to the sheer spectacle and fantastical nature of it all. What really excelled though was the score. Absolutely loved it! Oriental music with traditional instruments and hints of electric guitar. Got the blood pumping during certain action scenes.

Overall, it’s worth a watch but you’d be terribly bored upon a re-watch with friends. You’ll find yourself going “huh?” a lot but in the latter half and ending, it clears it all up. Though I can’t say I recommend watching it despite just saying it’s worth a watch. Up to you.

Final note: one scene straight had an angel with a fiery sword battling a snake. Oh hey, creation myth much, Uriel anyone? Cherub angel with a flame sword, nice inspiration.

Movies

Space Sweepers

A South Korean science fiction epic about humanity in the distant future where the Earth has been ravaged by acidic soil turning the planet into a hazardous, poisonous wasteland. The elites of humanity live in orbit around the planet in habitation stations that are protected by domes which allow for artificial gravity and the possibility for air, water, and plants. 95% of the human population is trapped on the dying earth, while a corporation known as UTS controls who lives in orbit and for the eventual colonization of Mars which has been turned into a tropical utopia via a genetically enhanced super tree known as the Tree of Life. The founder and creator of these inventions is James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), a 152 year old megalomaniac, who has his own misguided views on what it means to be a good human being.

The rest of humanity that lives in orbit but not as a part of the habitation stations, live in squalor and are subject to ridicule and being poor. They find jobs as space sweepers; that is, they have their own ships acquired through loans (debt on debt), and collect space debris for recycling to earn what little money they can. The story focuses on one such crew, on a ship called The Victory, with Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri), pilot Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), mechanic and engineer Tiger Park (Seon-kyu Jin), and a robot called Bubs (Hae-Jin Yoo). Each one of these characters has their own little story that is revealed through the 136 minute adventure, some being tragic and some not, but overall, human stories. The crew comes across a 7 year old child (Ye-Rin Park) who is a wanted bounty by the UTS corporation. Hoping to score some money by ransoming her back, the crew of the Victory find themselves in a fight for the future of humanity.

I really enjoyed the philosophical debates and pandering found throughout the movie, especially when the main villain, Sullivan, would preach about greed yet failing to acknowledge how he himself is just as fallible. The use of mass media to disillusion and manipulate the population to further the whims of the UTS corporation hits a little too close to home and current events. The divide between the rich and the poor, and the visual representation of dirty folks versus clean, or having broken down shoes, is also quite relevant. Despite being set in the not too distant future, the idea that these issues would still remain has been long engrained in the minds of many writers and helps ground the story. Some of the events and technology that exists in the movie is straight up fantasy and the story gets around that by stating that it can’t be explained by anyone and that it just is. At its basic core, the movie is about different people coming together, of all nations, and working to achieve unity and peace while being beset by those that wish to covet power all to themselves. It’s about a family of misfits putting aside their differences to save the life of a child, and in turn, save themselves from their past misdeeds.

The CGI was phenomenal, and I really enjoyed the action scenes in space. In one particular battle scene, near the end, my mind went to the recent season of the Expanse and I couldn’t help but think how that show failed miserably to convey any sense of action or ship battles – and Amazon supposedly supplied it with a larger budget, ha! Anyways, Space Sweepers, is a thoroughly enjoyable ride and for being the first Korean space blockbuster, it is quite a good start. Some minor nitpicks here and there, like some of the actors or actresses felt like they were plucked from the street, but it’s all good. I recommend watching it, and I hope to see more science fiction movies like this from South Korea.

TV Shows

The Uncanny Counter

“People are the real devils.”

In a supernatural fantasy show, where people are assigned the job of a grim reaper to help wayward souls ascend to the afterlife and to fight evil spirits, having the real villains be human is a great example of societal messaging. The show, The Uncanny Counter, is a South Korean production about 4 grim reapers or demon hunters (Counters) and their journey in protecting the land starring Jo Byung-gyu as So Mun, Yoo Jun-sang as Go Mo-tak, Kim Se-jeong as Do Ha-na, and Yeom Hye-ran as Choo Mae-ok, with supporting cast members. These four are the primary cast of which the show revolves around with So Mun being the main character and the most powerful member of the group. As mentioned earlier, their duty is to help souls ascend to heaven or the afterlife in a place called the Yung but only those unfortunate souls to have been killed by a person hosting an evil spirit. These hosts are individuals with murder in their hearts which has allowed an evil spirit to bond with them, and in doing so they are capable of becoming stronger than that of a normal human. Each evil spirit is measured on their powers with a scale of level one to level four. Level three and up spirits possess unusual abilities and require the Counters to work together as a team in order to defeat them. An evil spirit is defeated once a Counter uses their ability to ascend souls to force an evil spirit to return to the afterlife or Yung, and be judged by the judiciary committee of the afterlife.

Furthermore, a person killed by an evil spirit has their soul eaten and will remain confined inside the host until the spirit is defeated. To combat these beings, Counters have their physical strength and speed enhanced by a factor of three times as powerful as a normal human being. In addition, each Counter has their own ability based upon their personalities. So Mun is special because not only does he have the enhanced strength and speed but he can summon the Yung Territory at will. This territory appears normally in the world for a few moments but can last as long as an hour. Within this territory, the Counters are enhanced by a factor of five times as powerful as normal humans. This surge of strength allows them to defeat the more powerful level three and up entities.

With that explanation aside, the story in The Uncanny Counter follows So Mun as he becomes one of the Counters following the death of a previous Counter member. He embarks on a grand adventure helping him hone his abilities and allowing him to keep his emotions in check. Being an 18 year-old highschool student with a physical disability, he and his friends are the targets of bullies. It is not until he becomes a Counter that he acquires the means to deal with the bullies, and help not only his friends, but the entire school. Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy of fraud, murder, and corruption within the Mayoral and police offices.

What I enjoyed best about this show was that each episode is filled to the brim with societal messages. Like those that kill others are just as bad as evil spirits, or that not repaying a kindness is a form of wickedness, or that standing idly by while acts of wickedness happen is just as bad as those that did the acts. Another that I liked was that you have to take moments to evaluate your emotions, feelings, and thoughts and parse through them. Give yourself a chance to figure out and express them because keeping them bottled up inside only continues to hurt you. Another is that not all people who bully others do so because they’re inherently bad or evil, but rather from a misguided attempt to mitigate their own hurt feelings be it from bad parenting or outside circumstances. They’re merely victims of a cycle and that by helping them break free of it, they can change for the better. All these messages were great to see and really helped the show become something more than merely a fantasy.

Mild Spoilers Ahead

Other aspects that were really good was the acting of the four Counters, Jo Byung-gyu as So Mun was incredible at portraying emotions, I even teared up several times. His character’s story was a main driving point because it’s established that when he was 11, he and his parents were in a car accident that took their lives and left him crippled. He later learned that it was not an accident, and that his parents were killed. The conclusion in the final episode was so satisfying to watch, and so cathartic and emotional. I found myself weeping during So Mun’s interactions with his parents in the afterlife. It was so touching and beautiful. The other characters didn’t have nearly the same emotional impact but nonetheless there was still moments of tenderness. Yoo Jun-sang as Go Mo-tak portrayed a character that lost his memory seven years ago, and he was a joy to watch. Tough yet nurturing, funny yet wise. His character’s arc was tragic but also a necessity to have him experience growth. Yeom Hye-ran as Choo Mae-ok was like the mom of the group, and was kind and caring to all but fierce and protective when she needed to be. (Side note, all the Counters are possessed by a spirit from Yung which is what grants them their powers. These spirits are those that have died and are working for a chance at reincarnation.) Her Yung spirit is revealed to be her own son that passed away years ago. This relationship between her and her Yung spirit is simultaneously tragic and touching. Kim Se-jeong as Do Ha-na is like the black sheep of the group, her character’s personality is dark but only because of her upbringing and own tragic past. Nonetheless she doesn’t stay dark but becomes a beacon of light and laughter at times, she doesn’t let her past weigh her down but embraces it and uses it to help her new family. She’s just as kind, caring, and protective as the rest of them and just as wise and nurturing. All of the Counters felt really human, and fleshed out.

The special effects were well done, there was a nice use of practical effects with wires and stunts. The CGI was on point and never detracted from the story or actions going on. The action sequences were a blast to watch, hand to hand combat was enjoyable and easy to follow. There wasn’t really any multiple quick takes and different camera angles at play. One particular scene was done in first person point of view and it was a blast to watch. The soundtrack was fun and eclectic, from pop songs to instrumental to heavy rock.

Overall, I highly recommend watching this show. I splurged through it in a manner of two days. I was simply enthralled. And American shows need to take note, this is how you make a season finale. It ends all threads, wraps them up, provides a cathartic release, and then showcases where the story could go next. There is no cliffhanger ending, those should only ever be used between episodes and never in the last one. It was a wild ride, and satisfying from start to finish.

TV Shows

Fate: The Winx Saga

Winx is alright. Co-created by a writer from Vampire Diaries (Brian Young) and it shows. Edgy teenage high-school drama, with a petty jealous ex-girlfriend, delinquent stoner and bully, token bisexual who happens to be black. Newcomer with insidious purpose serving some mysterious dude only named as “he”. Token fat girl who grows to be much better than initially led on. Slightly emo girl that turns out to be an empath. Cool, smooth and charismatic guy that is essentially a jock. Main character with a mysterious hidden past and special powers much stronger than any other character. The show is chock full of TV tropes stretched to their limits. The plot follows standard young adult fantasy shows, your main character doesn’t know her past, she rebels against the adult authority figures who may or may not have been lying to her, turns to the enemies or bad guys of the show for help, realizes the friends she made along the way are better than the enemies she’s been unwittingly helping with their nefarious plans, being hunted by CGI monsters/creatures. You know, standard stuff.

The six episode format helped move things speedily along but it sacrificed proper character development, world building, and overall felt more like an origin story for the girls. It completely feels like the second season is where the meat and bones of the story will be. The first season was mere filler. The main character is Bloom played by Abigail Cowen, a 16 year old girl with fire powers. We have Aisha played by Precious Mustapha, an athlete, morning person, and a water fairy. There’s Terra (Eliot Salt), with a spot on the nose character name, as an earth fairy. Musa (Elisha Applebaum) as a mind fairy and empath. Hannah van der Westhuysen as Stella, a light fairy and princess of a land called Solaria. Sadie Soverall as Beatrix, an air fairy that can summon electricity, and our minor villain. Danny Griffin as the token jock, Sky, a specialist student aka non-magic user trained to use swords and other weapons as a soldier for the school. Other mentions are Freddy Thorp as Riven, another specialist and the token stoner/delinquent. Theo Graham as Dane, specialist and the aforementioned token bisexual as Netflix demands of its shows. And six more actors and actresses that have a bit more screen time as the love interest of Musa, the headmistress, the tough father figure of Sky and weapons master of the specialist students, Bloom’s parents, and the father of Terra and love interest of Musa.

It was well acted as far as these kinds of young adult shows go. The young actors and actresses were clearly in the ranges of 22-25 so it was a little unbelievable that they were supposed to be playing teenagers except for Sadie Soverall, she was clearly much younger than the rest (19). The chemistry between the friends was good, and between all love interests. The adult authority figures were standard fare, not much to write home about there. The antagonist that was eventually revealed wasn’t necessarily evil, more like heavily misguided and thinks their way is the only correct way.

As I stated at the beginning, it was alright. Definitely a guilty pleasure show for me. Soundtrack was mostly alternative or indie music, whatever the kids are listening to these days. Cinematography was beautiful; English countryside and spooky trees. With it being 6 episodes long, I recommend giving it a watch if you were an old time fan of the original kids cartoon or if you’re looking for a young adult fantasy binge watch.