TV Shows

Hellbound

I can understand the critical love for this show, it is masterfully helmed and well crafted. The characters are strong, rounded, and believable. Humanity reacts in a predictable manner when masterfully manipulated by psychology under the guise of religion and the unexplainable. Being marked by so called angels for death, and then being brutally beaten to a pulp before burned away out of existence, is an interesting concept. Six episodes was far too short to explore such an idea, and I hope season 2 delivers. The cliffhanger was the only time it got truly interesting for me.

I understand the allure of telling emotional stories, playing with the viewers’ heartstrings to get audience immersion, and nobody does it like the Koreans do, but man! This felt like one of those Hollywood movies crafted solely for an Oscar… Except for the sheer brutal violence. It is over the top, and gory, and just feels like it’s there for the sake of being there. It wasn’t done tastefully, it was too much. I looked away every time. Perhaps that was the intent, to showcase how some would look on in glee, while others away. Perhaps, like all media, there’s social programming plugging away at you. Desensitizing you to the brutality of it all. I would have liked this show if they did away with the horrific acts committed by entities to humans, and just shown the after effect of the burned bodies. I don’t need to see a man or woman brutalized against the ground, pavement, or other.

I would have enjoyed the story way more if it focused on the supernatural element as the forefront plot point. Yes, yes, humans will create their own religion and groups to make meanings of events they don’t understand. I wanna see an exploration into these demonic entities, research some ancient libraries, make a special government team for it. But, that wouldn’t draw people in as strongly as small interknit stories between specific individuals that shape the world, and the small people affected by such decisions.

Overall, yes, it’s a good show, not denying that. I, myself, didn’t like it.

TV Shows

The Wheel of Time (Updated)

Based upon the three episodes available on release (Scroll down for Edit)

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.

UPDATED SECTION

Edit: After having watched the rest of the show, I say that it is quite worth the effort. I enjoyed the direction the story went with, the effects shown, and the strength of the acting, both in emotions and physicality. The start of episode 7 featured an incredible stunt sequence of a pregnant warrior fighting off multiple opponents. It was raw, visceral, and very well done.

Each episode past the initial three added more exposition, intrigue and mystery to the story while interjecting morality and lessons on power. I liked the amyrlin seat, and the order of power in the White Tower for the all female mages. The relationships between them, while also being careful as not to spill too many secrets because everyone there is vying for power.

The finale was enjoyable as it ended this journey of five, and split them up into their own stories, and their own paths. Matt goes one way, Rand another. Egwene, Nynaeve and Perrin left at the city at the end. And Moiraine with Lan having to figure their own thing. We got some answers as to what the Dark One wants, and the true nature of the Dragon Reborn, but not enough. I do wish Amazon gave them more episodes to flesh it out some more, but given what we got, it is a fun ride. Also that last scene, wow, scary, and I’m curious how it’ll fit into the plot moving fowards.

I recommend this show!

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.

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.