Movies

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

Before this even arrived on Netflix, I was wary of it for several reasons. The first and foremost is the writer, Beau DeMayo. Looking his credits up, The Originals and a single episode of The Witcher TV show, didn’t inspire any hope. And within the first 5 minutes, it shows that the writer did not do any research into the lore and world of the Witcher. It’s like they read the books and then decided to recreate it based on what they could remember to suit their own fantasy of what the books actually are. What is on display, is your typical Netflix attempt at being woke and diverse. If I had to be frank, it’s a black guy’s fantasy of the Witcher. The black family at the start should have been from Zerrikania, not Kaedwen. And they would be a tribe of warriors if they were.

Before someone starts in with the whole, “but it’s a fantasy, anything goes”, it’s Witcher. It’s got its own rules, and law, and lore. It’s primarily Slavic and the time period that it borrowed from, had very few people of color that weren’t from their own lands. There is no racism at play. It would be like taking LOTR and making the hobbits black. It doesn’t add anything but try to appeal towards that so called diverse crowd. You can have diversity, when’s the last time we had Slavic good guys? Oh, my bad, I forgot, the Western world can’t have that. Is British-washing a term? Because that’s what they seem to be doing. Cast yet another British actor in the lead role. Definitely a type of whitewashing.

Grievances aside, animation is really good. Studio Mir does a topnotch job. Action is fluid, and easily seen. Fair bit of blood and gore to satisfy the mature audiences coming in from the games. Voice actors did fine with what they had to work with. Nothing outstanding. However, I spy with my little eye a little nepotism and I expected nothing less from Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. Casting her own son as the young voice of Geralt. After all, she’s the one whitewashing away any Slavic elements.

Overall, if I ignore the poisonous elements of the movie, and just focus on the action, yea, I would recommend it. But if you’re a Slavic fan of Witcher, and you can ignore the atrocity committed, you’ll still struggle like I did. I’m trying to not let my own venom and seething anger influence my review but it’s a struggle. Evil comes in many forms, destroying the cultural identity of an artist’s work is certainly one of them.

Movies

New Gods: Nehza Reborn

What a captivatingly strange movie! I had no idea what it was about going into it and after finishing watching it on Netflix, I must say I was pleasantly entertained. An epic story about God and Demons and reincarnation. From what I’ve gathered in looking it up, it is based upon the character of Nehza from the Ming Dynasty novel Investiture of the Gods. It is a 3D Chinese animated fantasy action adventure film directed by Zhao Zi and written by Mu Chuan. There is the option to watch it in English, but I always opt for the original language instead with English subtitles. The animation itself was fantastic, and well done. The computer graphics were amazing, and so were the many effects such as water, fire, and hair. All of it was incredibly well animated.

The story itself was pretty easy to understand despite going into it without knowing a thing. Basically, from my understanding, is that the story takes place 3000 years after the Ming Dynasty at which point humanity has devolved into a cyberpunk/steampunk world. Motorcycle races are held to captivate the hearts of those that are trying to survive in this trying world. One such racer, who becomes a champion at the start, Li Yunxiang is the protagonist of the story. When he encounters the greedy Ao Bing, who wants Li’s motorcycle for himself, that’s when everything explosively starts. Li is the reincarnation of the God Nezha, who is a God of fire. Ao Bing, is an ice God, and a dragon prince. His father is the main antagonist, the Dragon King of the East, who covets power above all else. There’s also a lot more but I’d rather you watch it than me telling you everything!

The action is on an epic level, with an awesome soundtrack to boot. Rock riffs and guitar during scenes of action, to melodic instrumentals during moments of philosophical teaching. A fusion of classic Asian instruments and music with modern takes, the soundtrack was a joy to hear and helped pump up the viewer when our protagonist is kicking ass. There is heart, sadness, and joy to be found, along with comical elements too – the character of The Masked Man provides this in ample shades. The voice acting was great, and the progression of the story elements was good. There was no moments of unfounded edits or cuts in the plot. What I did hate, and I’ve noticed is a staple of Chinese movies, is that animals are not respected at all, and are often killed to motivate a character to action. It is a cheap tactic to get the viewer invested and emotionally hurt. So I will spoil that for you, and warn you, that the animals do die.

Overall, it was a highly enjoyable spectacle and I do recommend watching this. I will be looking forward to the next installment with great interest.

TV Shows

WandaVision

I had high hopes when the show initially started due to the meta usage of layering a show within a show. And then the slow reveal that everything was a reality created by Wanda was unique. I enjoyed the performance by Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, it brought in comedy to what was otherwise a grim affair. Elizabeth Olsen did an excellent job portraying a woman consumed by grief and the PTSD that comes from watching your loved one die (twice in her case). I was indifferent to Paul Bettany as Vision. There’s not much that character can bring emotionally to the table. He’s more a tool to advance Wanda’s character.

The rest of the supporting cast characters such as Captain Rambo, Darcy, Hayward, and her twins all did pretty decent. Nothing outstanding, just played their roles. Agatha was campy fun and a nice foil to Wanda, but ultimately served little purpose other than to accentuate Wanda as the Scarlet Witch. The citizens of Westview had little effect on the plot, I thought they would have more than what was shown. That they would have a greater impact on Wanda’s character but they simply served to reminder her that her actions have consequences.

Spoilers From Here On

Ultimately, I was filled with disappointment. They failed to deliver what I had hoped to have been shown. I was expecting to see a Scarlet Witch devastated by loss and brought to madness but it’s Disney, they never have the courage to show such loss. Gotta keep it kid friendly – yet their cartoons have no problems killing off the mom characters. I was expecting Wanda’s twins to die, and Vision to die, and then consumed by grief and vengeance, she becomes the Scarlet Witch and a tragic villain. Instead, we got a Wanda that accepted her loss (for the moment) and reverted everything to normal except the townsfolk hate her guts, oh and she stole the magical evil spellbook. Any devoted fans recognize it from Agents of Shield? Yup, the book that made Ghost Rider and the same book he took to Hell, somehow showed up in Agatha’s hands. I’m slightly angered by that. Shows they don’t care at all for Agents of Shield and that they’re clearly retconning it. And watch, all sorts of various sites are gonna be talking about how the darkhold can bring all sorts of magical things to the MCU… Newsflash people! It’s already happened!

Other disappointments include the Vision vs Vision fight. Two entities capable of phasing through matter fighting into a stalemate and then having a philosophical match. Yawn. Captain Rambo gets powers and she uses it to stop bullets. Another yawn.

Honestly, this entire show was just a marketing ploy for Doctor Strange 2. You could have cut it down to four hour long episodes and you’d have achieved the same result. The only gains were a new superhero, Vision back from the dead, and Wanda as Scarlet Witch. And all of that was simply teased, never allowed to go to full fruition. It’s clear the movies are their main goal to forward the MCU, and the TV shows are but appetizers to slightly sate your hunger while they prepare the main course.

Overall, I actually don’t recommend watching this. It’s a time sink with little to no payout. You’ll have learned nothing going into Doctor Strange 2 that would influence the plot. If you knew comics at all, you already know Wanda is the Scarlet Witch. If you do insist on viewing it, you can skip every episode and watch the finale and you would have learned as much as those that watched it in its entirety. This was a special effects extravaganza and light on storytelling. Then again, it’s Disney. What did one expect?

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.