Movie Menagerie 6

Jason Bourne- Overall, the Bourne series is very good. I liked the last one with Jeremy Renner. After Matt Damon backed away, I think they came up with a smart angle for Legacy to keep the franchise going without him. This is the 5th movie in the series and it brings back Damon and director Paul Greengrass. I love spy movies and this one is built more or less around closure for Jason. It’s a simple plot but effective. Bring in some returning characters, sprinkle in some new ones and sandwich all those people between elaborate action set pieces. So that’s all good. But again, Paul Greengrass. His style drives me nuts. Hyper kinetic, jarring direction. Fast zooms to establish where something is taking place followed immediately by a camera jerk to the left or right as a character enters. He adores moving the camera with punches as if that adds to the impact of hits. It doesn’t. It robs fight choreography and stunt men of their hard work to sell the action. If you can’t see the results, it doesn’t matter what happened before it. It ends up looking like they had no prep or filming time for the fights and had to cover up rushed work. Thankfully the vehicle chase scenes aren’t marred by such stupid filming decisions (the motorcycle bit at the beginning is largely fantastic as is the final car chase). That said, it’s left open for more movies and so am I.

Independence Day: Resurgence– Hmm. It’s pretty much what I expected. The original movie was fun when it came out 20 years ago and is really stupid. This is exactly the same, just 20 years later with different special effects techniques. I was 15 when the first one came out and I think anyone who is 15 for this one will dig it as much as I liked the first. Then time passes and you go, “Oh, no.” ID:R is popcorn filmmaking at its most cookie cutter presentation. It’s a sequel, so everything has to be bigger. Those massive ships that invaded 20 years ago? Nothing by what rolls up in this one. More destruction, bigger explosions. More stupidity. It’s just dumb. Horrible one liners delivered so ham fisted that everyone behind the camera while filming must have winced. References to the first movie to remind you that yes, this is a sequel. Characters who show up exactly where they need to be at exactly the right time almost every scene. The coincidences are out of control. Groups of characters able to communicate with the thinnest of technological explanation that boils down to “just go with it.” Child actors put in for absolutely no reason. It is what it is, not a good alien invasion movie. I will say, the special effects are often exceptional. At least you can see where most of the money went.

Rogue One– As a casual Star Wars fan, this RO is a fun watch. But just like The Force Awakens, one viewing is going to be enough for me. This movie tries, at every frame to be in the Star Wars movie. It sometimes feels like the production was so concentrated on that goal, that it was never allowed to do anything new. There are new characters (who tend to mumble in the beginning for some reason), new places to visit with a prequel story that most people know the ending to. Sure, the journey takes up 99% of the film so that ultimately works. The special effects also work. There’s some gorgeous stuff from start to finish that establishes the galaxy in believable ways. I also liked how this story embraced the “war” aspect of Star Wars. While we’ve seen a lot of space battles in the series (and RO matches that bar) the on the ground fighting gets greatly expanded. That felt new. As mentioned there are a lot of new characters and many of them are great. But it’s fleeting. You don’t get to spend much time with them so there’s little character building. For a universe so well established, many of those important to the story is just a blip in time. I guess we can expect spin off comics and merch for many but that feels lame to me. As strong as the last act is in terms of action (the ultimate being Darth Vader’s hallway slam poetry session) there is a stupid amount of stupid hoops they had to jump through. We need to get this thing that’s really hard to get to! *work to get to it* Ah, it’s behind all this stuff and we gotta get it manually with this claw machine game! *gets it* Now we gotta go up! *go up* Now put it in! And it doesn’t work! Is the power on? Oh, it’s telling me the somaflange isn’t aligned right. We have to align that, I guess. I hope the guys in space are doing their thing for us to finish this at the very last moment. Even the last bit with Vader is contrived. He could have got what he wanted with a force grab and be done with it. I don’t know, maybe I’m turning into a fuddy duddy.

The Accountant– This turned out to be a surprise for me. I don’t remember this Ben Affleck led thriller even coming out in theatres. The easiest way to explain this is that it’s Affleck’s Jason Bourne. Christian Wolff has a completely different background and has a day job to cover up his side work. Good story (seems like it could have started as a book but I didn’t think it did) that Affleck sells well. The action is fantastic and unlike a certain director, you can see what’s going on at all times. My only problem is when the movie comes to a screeching halt for a massive exposition section. Like, all of Wolff’s backstory comes out in this section and then the story starts back up for the third act. There had to have been a better way to do it. Not enough to ruin the movie for me as I’m still going to recommend it. I’d be down for another one. I like the character a lot and I think a sequel could turn out to be much better.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping– This movie is so stupid it’s great. Conner is a former boy band member who’s about to release his sophomore solo album. When it tanks, he does everything he can to keep his career alive. The Lonely Island guys are behind this so the songs are obnoxiously terrific. It parodies what pop music has become (more or less the nonsense lyrics that passes for rap now) perfectly and highlights how the tide of popularity can swing in an instant. Being famous can come at a high price. There are tons of cameos and while I laughed throughout, the limo scene is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It’s worth watching just for that.

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RIP Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington’s suicide has shocked everyone. His passing is terrible and I can only wish peace for his family and friends. He left behind many people.

I saw Linkin Park once. The 2004 Projekt Revolution Tour. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen, the sold out crowd of something like 12,000 people were in a trance for the entire thing. Their fan base adored (and still adores) them and the band played in kind. A feedback loop of energy that’s impossible to forget. Chester was a major part of that and he positively affected countless people.

From the outside, you think success is all you need in life to be happy. Fame couldn’t hurt either, an acknowledgment that people dig what you do. Since 2000, Linkin Park has gone strong and remained incredibly popular so it’s easy to assume they’re all perfectly happy people. It’s never that simple. Chester survived abuse as a child and that followed him his entire life. Drug abuse and depression were a part of his life, unfortunately. He wore his heart on his sleeve in his songwriting but I guess he hid his deepest scars from everyone as long as he could.

If anything, this is another reminder that we need each other. Don’t keep it all to yourself, talk and others can and will listen and help.

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The Summer Lull gets a pinch on the behind

Two big returns last night.

Game of Thrones- Everyone watches this and there are a million reaction articles up for the Season 7 premiere so I’ll be very brief. Solid return that sets up the board for the next six episodes of the season (that ain’t much so there can be no down time). After the crazy end of Season 6, we were basically shown where and what all the remaining players are doing. The North is gearing up a defense for the undead and the South is working on getting new allies to reclaim dominance over The Seven Kingdoms. The Dragon of Dragons has finally made it to her ancestral home. She was a very small part of the premiere so I expect major movement from her end of the board next week. It felt good to be back in Westeros and man does this show look good. Just about every shot is impressive.

The Strain- This one totally snuck up on me. It’s the final season too! I forgot how enraged I got over what Zach Goodweather did in the finale. Every time he appears on screen I’m annoyed and want him to be hung up by his ears. Despite my aggravation over the dumb kid, it’s turned the show to a new level of bleakness and grave stakes. The show started with finding about the threat, then rode on preventing the threat and now it’s on the verge of all hope is gone. It’s 9 months after the fallout and the nasties are well on their way to reforming the world. The team is busted apart with Eph broken over what Zach did and hiding out in Philly. Fet has managed to cling to a final chance for human survival. On a mission from Abraham, he’s running around North Dakota with a new woman and Mr. Quinlan looking for a nuclear war head. It’s looking bad but the good news is that Eph runs into someone who might give him a renewed sense of purpose. The fight isn’t over. Looking forward to what happens.

My movie watching has hit the skids lately but I expect that to change shortly. I have more to watch than I know what to do with. I still haven’t started the final season of Bloodlines, I think I’ll crack that open once I’ve mosied through Master of None. Probably do House of Cards after that. The amount of quality content on Netflix is absurd.

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Director Bong Joon Ho’s last film, Snowpiercer knocked my socks off so I was really looking forward to this one. As a whole, it delivered, but there are some weird choices.

Okja is a super pig, a new kind of animal that its owner, the Miranda Corporation, promises will be a world changing animal. Non-GMO, terrific for the environment and a new source of food for the growing world population. Over 10 years, the Miranda Corp has rolled out a plan to introduce this new species to the world. A few of these infant animals are sent across the globe to farmers who will raise them and then a “Worlds Greatest Super Pig” competition will be held to celebrate this wonderful project.

Mija is a young woman in South Korea who, with her uncle (grandfather?), raise Okja. Then the Miranda Corp comes a calling and it becomes immediately clear that the Corporation has been less than truthful. This film takes a look at how the human population survives and thrives today and the morals that come with it. There are so many people consuming so many resources that it’s a constant race to keep ahead of it all. Marketing and profit rule our capitalist planet and any lie is worth telling to sell a product.

Much of the movie is about the ethics of the meat industry. Okja is designed to tug at the heart strings. She’s super cute, gentle and smart to the level of being problem solvers (these super pigs are not cows or chickens in the brains department). There’s a personification to Okja where she has a personality and the visual FX are good enough to make you think that she’s real.

Once Okja is taken from her home, Mija is on a mission not to rescue her pet, but her family member. You got all the battles of humanity here. The Miranda Corporation is heartless and gross who frame everything as they’re doing all this for the great good of humans. Ethics and compassion be damned, these critters are made to be delicious and profitable. The Animal Liberation Front is the animal activists on the case to stop Miranda and expose what they are really up to (Okja is genetically modified and these sentient beings are being made simply for mass slaughter).

Okja is a really well story that is all things you’d expect in a tale like this. Touching, exciting, heroic, maddening and crushingly sad. The last act of the movie is some crushing stuff, it can get hard to watch. While the special effects bring Okja to life, the live cast makes everything believable. Tilda Swinton, Giancarlo Esposito, Steven Yeun, Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal round out the well-known cast members. Korean actress Seo-Hyn Ahn as Mija is easily the best though. Her journey is a harrowing one and every step, jump, slide, crash, and plea is a meaningful one.

Now for the two things that stick out to me. The way the Super Pig Competition goes down in New York City is really half baked. Sure the event was a sham in the end, but I don’t see how putting up a clearly stressed animal (even under the ideal circumstances the Miranda Corp thought it was going to go down) was going to give the public good feels about it. Then we have Jake Gyllenhaal as Johnny Wilcox, a Steve Irwin type animal TV personality. I don’t understand why they had this character act that way. He doesn’t match what’s going on at all. He sticks out so much from the rest of the movie it’s like Willy Wonka showed up on the Titanic. Distracting and ultimately useless, the character could have been cut entirely and not be missed.

The ending is probably the only way that it could have been done to make it satisfying and complete. I’d call it realistic as it straddles the line of being too happy to be believable and too upsetting that it would turn off a large part of the audience. Plus, Mija gets in done in a way that fits one of the major themes of the movie. It makes sense and it works.

Overall an effective and well made movie. Recommended.

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TV and movie round up

Orange is the New Black- Season 5 was overall good. It felt rather slow as a whole (a problem of too many characters) with bits of greatness spread around. The last three episodes felt like the best and most engaging part of this riot based season. You’d think there would be more suspense in a three day stand off but it is what it is. I’d say it keeps a solid show running well and the end is especially good.

Trollhunters- I really, really liked this. Some terrific animation and the main cast of characters is fantastic. It tells a full and satisfying story in it’s 20 something episodes that were really well paced and changed the stakes often enough to keep the story fresh. Great show for all ages, something parents can watch with their kids.

Blame!- Cookie cutter anime that brings nothing new to the table. There’s some good animation but there’s nothing here to save it from mediocrity. Skip.

Attack on Titan- It took season 2 forever to come out and I gotta say it was disappointing. Not enough happened for my taste. I’m not a mega fan (season 1 has serious and repeated anime cliches holding it back) by any stretch and was hoping for more. Not sure if I’ll bother with season 3.

GLOW- From some of the creators of Orange is the New Black, GLOW shares a lot of feeling with that show. The nearly all-female cast being the main one. I think this is way better than Orange. It’s the perfect tone from start to finish. Giving respect to the sport and the people who devote their lives to it was the right move. The cast is big but manageable so cast members and plot lines don’t get lost in the shuffle. Superb casting, it’s often very funny and always has a lot of heart. The show looks like it was shot and made in the 80’s which is a major achievement and is a major selling point for me. Women’s wrestling is often overlooked so giving the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling a chance to (fictionally) shine makes for a unique show. I ran through season 1 really fast and hope for more to come.

John Wick 2- I’m a big fan of the first movie with it’s more simplistic but professional take on assassin/action genre films. The set up is really simple (assassin Wick is brought out of retirement when the idiot son of a crime boss crosses the line with Wick’s family) and it’s just an hour and 15 minutes of long, wide angle shot action set pieces. So Wick 2 surprised me in how it didn’t try to push any of what made the original great. The set up is even simpler if that’s possible, and more bare bones from start to finish. Wick is a man of few words and I think he says even less in this one. It’s just loosely strung together action scenes that all feel more of the same. Not terrible, I was just expecting a lot more. I kept saying, “That’s it?” Not a good take to have.

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Where is the wisdom in this?

Last Friday I had my bottom two wisdom teeth removed. While not the horror show I thought it would be, the experience can still be summed up as: it sucks.

Novocaine was used, no knock out juice. The procedure itself was fast, I think 20 minutes. While there’s little to no pain during it, the sounds are super gross. The smell of ground teeth from the drill is horrific.

Pain-wise, it’s not bad. I’d say it’s uncomfortable and Tylenol with Codeine takes care of the worst of it. I’ve had strange flare ups of pain, but it feels more like I’ve been punched in the face one a day for the past week. The swelling is the worst as it just makes you feel annoyed more than anything else. The weird thing is that where the teeth were removed from has hurt the least. The swelling is all over the bottom gums. The whole mouth freaks out from the trauma. Speech has been impaired and eating has lost all of its joy. I’m very conscious of chewing differently to keep food away from the back. My biggest problem is that that I haven’t regained feeling on the lower left side.

My biggest problem is that that I haven’t regained feeling on the lower left side. The entire lip from corner to middle of my face and down about an inch and a half is numb. Two teeth in the front feel super weird like the novocaine hasn’t worn off yet. The nerve on that side is all goofed up from the swelling (most likely, it better be) so I’m basically on a wait and see how everything heals for everything to come back to normal (the stuff on the consent form is some nightmare stuff).

It’s been a week today which seems to be the major milestone for this type of surgery. Everyone is going to be messed up for that long so the next few days should see the biggest improvements. Monday I get the stitches out, looking forward to that.

Now, how stupid is this whole thing? Our jaws aren’t big enough for all the teeth we naturally grow. Over 90% of people need their wisdom teeth removed or they cause serious problems. And who’s the dope that named them ‘wisdom’ teeth? Where is the wisdom in this useless and miserable body part?

I still need the top two out. Maybe I can convince my body to absorb them.

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Better Call Saul <> Season 3

This season flew by and gadzooks was it good. Rock solid storytelling made all the more impressive considering how many characters are involved.

The main hook for the show is its ties to Breaking Bad and they put in some juicy bits for fans this year. We’ve seen Mike before but the major piece this year is Gustavo Fring. Along with Fring comes Hector Salamanca. Fascinating stuff. They write the coolest scenarios for Mike and that leads to him meeting Fring, who’s butting heads with Salamanca. What we watch unfold is a direct line to Breaking Bad.

You can’t have Saul without Jimmy of course. The flawed man I love to hate and constantly find myself rooting for no matter what. His brother Chuck, I hope eternally that I get to see him get what his arrogant ass deserves.

With that said…Jimmy goes to really dark places this season. Much of Jimmy’s arc this year is his feud with his brother and it comes to a head. Last year got pretty nuts but I was reeling at the last scene of this season. The fighting goes (fittingly) to the court room and I pretty much steer clear of any courtroom drama shows, they just aren’t my thing. What they did here blew me away it was so riveting and the fallout is nuts. Of course, I’m completely invested in these characters so that makes a world of a difference.

In the middle of all of this (or woven in I should say) is Kim. The only anchor Jimmy really has. She’s a kindred spirit to Jimmy, the share similar experiences in being suppressed and shoved aside despite being so damn good at their profession.

Their ultimate success so far is striking out together in their own practice. Kim wisely insulated herself last year knowing what Jimmy is like. When the verdict comes down from the trial and Jimmy is forced out, it’s a very telling moment for his personality. He’s going to struggle to pay for his part of the office. Kim sees it as just a building, they can move on. It’s much more to Jimmy. It’s a physical landmark to his achievements from under Chuck’s thumb. He’s completely distraught over the idea of losing it. So he gets creative to keep it.

And creative Jimmy is dangerous. We know Jimmy is good (goodish?) at heart but time and time again we see how myopic his view of the world is. That total jerk of a human being is always right underneath the surface. Total disregard with what others could go through as long it benefits him. When he gets his way it’s all about him, just disregard or ignore anything else because I’m making moves. Jimmy has a way of rationalizing things (I’m doing it for us!).

The steam rolling he and Kim give Chuck, which in the end is fascinating to see her take Jimmy’s methodology over her own. She’s run simple scams on some tools for fun with Jimmy, but this was something else. Kim was really onboard to stop Chuck. Then the Irene play Jimmy did. That was straight up grimy and it came as a real relief for me to see him do the right thing in the end.

The very end though? Oof. Chuck’s arc this season is a masterclass in storytelling.

Better Call Saul has a slow and deliberate way to its story arcs. It moves at its own pace by taking the time to set things up. The payoff often takes awhile to come around, not a lot of instant gratification. Each piece moves on its own. For example, Mike’s story arc finishes before all others, there’s a decent amount of show to go when we leave him. But he’s not completely gone as his involvement is passed off to Nacho. That whole web is set up with Fringe early on too. The first half of the season was Mike doing his awesome covert ops stuff and then that morphs into Nacho’s ultra dangerous plot.

Saul is edited slow, it’s completely against the MTV grain of hyper cutting and breakneck pacing. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the show and I think that turns off a lot of people. I don’t think nearly enough people know how great Saul is. I’m so impressed with this season and I can’t wait to see what happens next. With how things are going, it makes me wonder how much is left to tell. Maybe two seasons until we run up against the BB timeline?

I tip my hat to everyone involved in the production: cast, crew, et al.

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Wonder Woman

Let’s get it out of the way in the opening sentence: Wonder Woman is the best DC movie since The Dark Knight.

Wonder Woman and the quality that this film brings to DC fans has been long overdue (to put all of my cards on the table, I’m speaking as a fan of Man of Steel ). I loved pretty much every aspect of this movie and anything I didn’t like is more or less a nitpick (you gotta suspend your disbelief a few times to “go” with movie logic).

The origin story of Princess Diana, Amazonian from Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyta. With the blood of the god Zeus in her veins, young Diana is trained to fight in preparation for the eventual return of Ares, the God of War. She witnesses a pilot crash just of the shores of her home and saves his life. This man, Steve Trevor, is the first to step foot on Themyscira. He tells the Amazonians of the war that’s raging beyond their protected home. Years of fighting and millions dead with no end in sight. Diana recognizes this as her destiny. Ares is back and she must leave with Steve to stop the God of War’s plans.

First, as everyone already knows from her brief screen time in Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman. She embodies the comic book hero in every way. She’s perfectly cast, as is Chris Pine for Steve Trevor. This movie is two fish out of water stories, first with Steve on Themyscira and then Diana in Europe. They have an onscreen chemistry that moves with every beat of the story. They’re really funny together and they have a bond that grows through every scene. Their tale is a powerful one.

Wonder Woman feels like something we all need right now. She’s a hero for everyone and stands tall for justice in a world that often feels cynical and dark. She stands by her rock solid morals and speaks up every time she needs to. She questions the status quo and objects to others who make dodgy choices. She’s an instrument for positive change. Not only that, but Steve Trevor is too. In the beginning, there’s what at first seems like a throwaway joke. Diana asks Steve if he’s an average representation of man. He replies with “I’m…above average.” It comes back as an example of humanity.

A gorgeous movie directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman spans a lot of locals during the first World War. It’s a believable period piece with a man character that has super powers. Themyscira is gorgeous, London dirty and the battlefield grotesque. It’s shot really well with nice wide shots and careful movement that looks exciting but doesn’t get you lost.

Wonder Woman has some of the best action scenes around, which I am eternally grateful for. You don’t have to wait long for a huge battle at the start, and action is sprinkled throughout the second act that culminates in the clash of the titans at the end (I have no problem with how wild it gets at the end. I want my comic book movies to show their roots). There is some excellent fight choreography and each set piece brings something new. Wild defensive moves, crazy feats of strength and some brilliant stuff with the lasso that I don’t think has been done before. Diana is a monster on the battlefield. The woman has a goal when she drops into a room of bad guys: time to knock some sense into these fools. She’s an unrelenting force with a cutting sense of efficiency and grace.

With a runtime of over 2 hours, I was concerned that it would be too long, but there wasn’t a moment when I was bored. I think it’s really well paced with each scene being meaningful and well thought out. Nothing ever drags on. I liked all the guys that Steve brings on board for their quest, it gave the on-the-ground wartime section a Band of Brothers feel. While the two central villains are rather trite (can’t do much new with a German general and Dr. Death gets little screen time), I’m all about Ares. While he hangs back in the shadows for some time, once he’s out, he makes a hell of a presence. His armor is cool, he looks menacing and he’s crazy powerful.

Ares is a terrific foil for Wonder Woman and an effective way to bring about the message of the movie. Diana leaves home with a very nieve idea: all she has to do is kill Ares and his influence over mankind will be gone. It will end the war and man will simply be good again.  It’s a childish view that would be great if it were true but man and all of our faults are much more complicated than that. I really liked Ares dialog with Diana in trying to turn her and that was all underscored by the stages of their fight. The “above average” line I mentioned earlier from Steve comes back here as well. He stops her from doing something in a “greater good” moment that winds up getting many people killed. Diana is furious with Steve and blames him for not caring about others for a rational that doesn’t make sense to her. This action puts her faith in mankind into question. Later, Steve goes to great lengths to protect others. It’s through Steve following his words to action that she sees that Ares is wrong; mankind is good and is worth helping.

I’m stoked that Wonder Woman delivered. I love the ending and I hope the ideas and energy of this story roll into Justice League. The stage is set for even more fun and excitement.

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Doctor Strange

The introduction to magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m not a Doctor Strange fan as I’ve never touched one of his books, so I went into this with a blank slate.

Doctor Strange is good. That’s how I felt about it from beginning, middle, to end. The highs are high and the lows are generic and boring.

Dr. Stephen Strange is a gifted neurosurgeon and an obnoxious man. That is until he gets into a car crash that severely damages his hands. Then, he’s just an obnoxious man. With his life’s purpose gone, Strange is adrift. On the search for alternative healing, he finds a whole new world he thought could not exist. The mystic realm is a powerful and mind altering place and Dr. Strange falls in right when the earth needs a defender from another dimension.

The set up is certainly nothing special and I found Steven Strange a hard character to like before he’s “reborn.” In fact, I found few characters in here to really care about. They all fit a worn out mold and at worst, they’re present to do little more than explain things to the audience (Mordo and Wong). Benedict Cumberbatch as Strange does his Cumberbatchiest to put on an American accent. Cast wise my easy favorite is Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. She can class up any role she takes and TAO is by far the most interesting and well fleshed out character in the movie.

The other sore thumb in this movie is the humor. Just about all of it hits the dirt like a big mouth bass gasping to live. I don’t know if it’s this way in the comics, but Strange’s cloak being sentient rubbed me the wrong way. As far as I’m concerned the only living fabric I can believe in is the rug from Aladdin. I don’t want to use the word stupid but there it is.

Now for the pluses. I’m a big Mads Mikkelson fan and he gobbles up every scene as Kaecilus. Sure his motivations for villainy is about as complex as Strange’s origin but at least he looks cool doing it. I think he’s one of the better MCU villains.

Also, this movie is a knockout in the VFX department. I think they invented new colors for the mystic elements that bend, twist, and warp around the screen. It’s wild to look at and the magic elements lead to really interesting and unique action. Also unique, I never thought I’d see tutting used as a fighting technique. That’s a brilliant idea to use as the basis for conjuring spells. Put the digital fireworks over that and you get visuals that would make the Fullmetal Alchemist cast jealous. The climax of the third act is fantastic too, which made up for much of the early boredom I felt.

Of all the Marvel movies released so far, Doctor Strange sits somewhere in the middle for me. Worth a rental when you find you have the time.

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Sneaky shows have appeared

With my DVR on what it would consider a vacation from all the shows it normally records, some surprises showed up this week.

First, the final season of Orphan Black. That was a fast year! Final seasons are always extra stressful as it all comes down to the show runner’s sticking the landing. A bad ending can taint a whole series. OB still has a long way to go to get to the end. The sisters are all spread out and the Neolution movement has new management and they are getting aggressive. The hunt for the cure is still on, Sarah is badly hurt and there is some kind of human experiment running around Neolution’s main camp. There’s a lot of mysteries left to solve.

Ink Master is back with a quick turnaround. This time, it’s shop vs shop. Nine teams of two are in competition so these artists have to be excellent at working together in order to survive. As usual, there are some clearly weak contestants that are simply not going to make it. The added wrinkle is that when one team gets eliminated, another team comes in to take their place (I guess this will happen 4 or 5 times). At least one person on that team will be a returning contestant who failed on their season. That’s a big change for the show as it’s combining the occasional team up challenges with the Redemption angle. The first replacement team has come in and they’ve rattled the rest of the cast by having a well known and respected artist.

Face Off is another one with a quick turnaround. I could have sworn it was coming back at the end of the summer, but I’m clearly wrong. The wrinkle this time: two teams. These “shops” mimic how working in a real effects house is like. One person is elected to be the shop foreman. Since it’s six people on a team, there are more creatures to make at once. This also exactly how the season finales are done and it seems so obvious to do now that they’ve done it.  One shop is chosen as the winner of the challenge with one artist from that team being selected as the week’s best artist. That leaves the losing team, which means one of them is on the chopping block. I’ve got my favorites already, we will see if I’m right. My long shot is the kid from NJ. He doesn’t have a lot of experience but I think he has the talent. The longer he stays on the more he’ll learn so I think the show is very promising for him.

Blood Drive on SyFy starts today. Essentially grindhouse cinema on TV. The first one is about cars that run on human blood instead of gas. Fun idea, we’ll see how wild and wacky they go. A great chance to see what the practical gore produces can do outside of Evil Dead vs Ash!

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Gotham <> Season 3

This turned into a great season, it was so much fun. A lot happened, new characters came in (with great casting) and some old ones came back. The place was crawling with villains at one point but they managed to keep things tidy.

The season finale was fantastic. They got it all right with great closure and growth for story arcs and characters. The Penguin and Riddler relationship turned rivalry turned out great. The Court of Owls was a major point for Bruce and it really advanced his character. Gordon and Leslie had a full and complete chapter that solidified Gordon as a hero. The list goes on and on with all the characters that got time on screen and something meaningful happened.

Major changes are in store for next season. It’s going to be a new slate to draw on because major characters lost a lot of what they were after. The big power groups have been broken apart so much of the old standbys for the show are no longer going to work. That’s very exciting, real repercussions. The hits just kept coming in the last 10 minutes with Solomon Grundy being set up, Celina inching closer to Catwoman and an epic hero shot of Bruce to close the season. The writers hit their stride this season and I hope that they can keep the momentum going.

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Black is the Soul

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