10 January 2017


2016 was a year in which television shows were played on the television and other devices. This is an authoritative list of shows that I have watched that were the best.

1)      The Americans
Soviet spies were sent to America during the cold war. They performed clandestine missions for the KGB. This all really happened in real life and was called Directorate S. The show takes liberties with the premise, and I’m sure that real life spies could not possibly compete with the wig game that’s displayed in the show.
I think the Americans is more relevant now than ever with what some people are starting to call Cold War II. People and counties react in certain ways because of reasons that others may not be privy to. It is usually way more complicated than because they’re ‘evil.’
I think it’s interesting to see the earlier beginnings of some of the decisions in the 80s that had long lasting ramifications today. Things like supporting apartheid South Africa, and the CIA spending approximately 20 billion (1980s) dollars to train and assist the Mujahedeen in overthrowing Soviet Afghanistan. Immoral things were done for geopolitical reasons for both sides. There’s always been attempts to marginalize our atrocities while demonizing others.
The Americans is grounded with their characters. They’re well defined and feel genuine.
2)      Halt and Catch Fire
First of all, this show has a really dope opening theme.
This is another show that is set in the 80s era where people are reacting in a rapidly changing technological landscape. Characters don’t get along with each other, and feuds get developed over misunderstanding.

3)      Better Call Saul
Show features very nuanced characters and its very enjoyable seeing them interact.
4)      Mr. Robot
Despite having a meandering start, I enjoyed the much-needed characterization on Darlene and Angela. It’s nice to see that the FBI has competent agents again and that it’s not all about super hackers. I think there’s a good setup for season 3.
5)      Silicon Valley
The show is absurd because the tech industry is absurd.  This show makes me laugh and I guess comedy is very subjective.
6)      iZombie
This show is very much Veronica Mars with zombies. There might be a little ‘buffy’ in there too.
7)      Travelers
I really like time travel shows and I think this one does it big league. Appreciate that Brad Wright doesn’t hit you over the head with exposition dumps.
8)      Rectify
The show didn’t really get the resolution I wanted, but in a way I think that’s the point. This is an exceedingly slow show. I think Teddy Jr came away as MVP of the series, which I could not have imagined in the beginning. World class acting.
9)      Stranger Things
Poor Barb. The show being short is a good thing. I feel like it ended a little weaker than it started.
10)   Got ham
I feel giddy when dumb things happen in this dumb show. I really enjoy when villains do villainous things. People say that the tone of the show is all over the place, but that’s just what the show is about. There’s a manic energy that I really enjoy.

Note: I caught up on the Leftovers. Season 2 is a perfect season of television and would easily have been number 1.

20 September 2012

Resident Evil Retribution (2012)

Disclaimer: I realize that I am taking this movie too seriously. It’s a movie about monsters and zombies, it doesn’t have to make sense, right? 

There will be spoilers, though you are probably not watching the movie for the story.

Resident Evil Retribution takes place immediately after the last one. Alice, Chris, and Claire are all on the super tanker Arcadia while Umbrella and evil-Jill are seen on various helicopters headed towards the ship.

Everything explodes, and we see Alice fall into the water.

Umbrella Mega-Evil Corporation, in an effort to sell biological weapons to opposing nations, had to create multiple-block-wide simulation cities in their super secret UNDERWATER RUSSIAN facility. They have created duplicates of downtown Moscow, New York, Tokyo, and Racoon City. Umbrella has filled these places with perfectly functioning vehicles, weapons, electronics, furniture, and everything.

Umbrella has also prepared fifty different models of clones which can be programmed with various directives to fulfill various testing purposes.  For example, the same clone model can be programmed as a mom, or a business executive, or a business executive mom. They’ve been inserting these clones inside these city-domes to test out their bio-weapons in a realistic scenario. At one point in the movie, we see a conveyor belt of thousands of clones. They're just being strung up by wires swinging aimlessly along the assembly line in the air. How is Umbrella able to create so many clones? If they had this kind of future technology (along with holo-projectors and future bombs and vehicles), why do they need to even develop bioweapons?

We see one of these tests play out with an Alice clone getting eaten while trying to protect her daughter in an initial outbreak scenario. We see cars collide, fires get started, zombies get shot, and furniture gets broken. How is Umbrella able to replace everything for each test? Do they have a staff of cloned janitors and mechanics to reset it every time? How are they able get new vehicle? How could they afford to spend what must be a trillion dollars to construct this facility, and expect to turn a profit? This is ridiculous. Did anybody think the movie through?

The ‘real’ Alice wakes up in an interrogation chamber when somebody releases her. She explores the various city environments (with zombies!) until she gets to the main control centre, where she finds Ada Wong. Apparently , Albert Wesker. CEO of Umbrella, (the same person who we kinda saw blew up in a helicopter last movie) has sent in a team to try and rescue Alice. The Red Queen artificial intelligence system has turned crazy, taken over all remaining Umbrella assets, and is now focused on exterminating humanity.  They have to fight through various test environments to get to the underwater elevator which will lead them to the surface. Wesker also sent in another team consisting of Barry, Leon, redshirts, and Luther West from the last movie. They’re to rendezvous at one of the test environments.

It’s actually a little strange that a trillion dollar facility wouldn’t have underwater emergency escape pods. I guess they're trying to cut cost after overspending on hallways made entirely of light panels, holographic projectors for the sky, and domes with weather control.

So Ada and Alice go through the New York environment, and fight some monsters. They go through the Raccoon City and find the clone-Alice’s daughter. She thinks Alice is her mommy. The Red Queen’s security forces featuring Michelle Rodriguez and evil Jill attempt to kill the girls. Alice escapes to the Moscow environment where she helps the ‘guy team’ fight against a bunch of gun-wielding monsters. The rest of movie is pretty by-the-numbers. They fight bigger monsters while members of the team die one by one. Alice's desire to protect/rescue her faux-daughter conflicts with saving the rest of the team. 

Four members are alive by the time they explode the facility and escape to the surface. Jill/Michelle Rodriguez crashes the party in their submarine. A boss fight occurs featuring exclusively melee weapons. Alice almost loses until she remembers to remove Jill’s mind-controlling beetle from Jill’s chest. Umbrella should have made a mind controlling hat or helmet or something, but  Paul WS Anderson thought that the heart was the gateway to controlling a person.  Jill becomes good again.
Michelle Rodriguez has a secret weapon. It’s a super parasite that grants super strength and regeneration when inserted into her body. Seconds later, she was able to heal through bullet wounds through her head. It’s so powerful that it’s almost like magic.

They defeat her anyway, and Wesker sends a helicopter to pick up the survivors. The chopper lands at the White House where Wesker had become the President of the World in the time between the two movies (about a week or so, I’d guess.)  He gives Alice super powers and tells her that she is the only hope for humanity to stop the RED QUEEN AI from killing off everyone. It’s like Terminator, but with zombies.

The final shot of the film is Alice staring out the balcony in disbelief as the camera pans out, revealing the white house is besieged by an unending swarm of zombies and other creatures.

That’s strange, because Alice should have seen them while the chopper is flying into the base.

And if the Red Queen wanted to kill all humans, she should send in a couple of nukes at the white house.

If they don’t have nukes, then use those magical self-destruct bombs (like the ones on the Tanker or in Japan.)

Terrible movie overall.

Plot Holes?
I’m not an expert at underwater engineering, or weapons. I don’t think it’s smart to give monsters access to guns, rockets, and grenades. Just from a safety perspective, it would seem like a dumb idea if they accidentally ruptured the dome. What if stray bullets damage the edges? I’m only bringing this up because Ada brings it up during the film, telling Alice to not shoot at something.

There’s also a huge Licker that wanders around the service corridors, demolishing everything it its way. We’ve seen that it’s capable of causing massive damage to buildings, cars, whatever. The Red Queen probably shouldn’t have let it loose. It’s funny though that Alice finally kills it by shooting a clip into it’s exposed brain. (The brain is always exposed, it’s not like she removed the skull or anything.)

It would have been nice to see some sort of quarantine procedure in this research facility. An ability to lock things down if bad things happened, possibly purge all life forms inside of an environment. That kind of technology should exist, right? Umbrella was testing various bio-weapons, if they can’t clean/wipe out contaminants, how could they test things properly?

This film heavily hinted that all the characters in the first film were clones, Alice included. I thought they were going to get in the ‘life is important, even clones’ territory, but everyone pretty much just glossed over the facts. At this point in the story, Humans are a near extinct species. I thought it might have made sense to convert this place into a sanctuary for humans. They’re able to manufacture clones as needed to fight zombies. There’s safe, (weather) controlled environment domes. The team kills tens of thousands of (near completed) clones without even thinking or feeling anything, even though Alice has adopted her clone’s daughter. Wesker is one dumb dude.

Big Butt Stick
“The previous films sucked, why would you expect this one to be any good?”

 I’ll be honest, I didn’t truly think this one would be any good. I enjoy making fun of movies.

“It’s just a zombie movie, stop expecting realism.”

That’s no excuse. There’s no reason why a film can’t have action and also a compelling story. See: Dark Knight, Inception, Source Code, The Thing (1982), Avengers, Matrix 1.
The RE universe is just incoherent. It’s about 5 years after the zombie apocalypse. Humans are vastly outnumbered by zombies and other creatures. How are Umbrella facilities still operational? Where is food/power coming from? By now, all canned/shelf food have long expired. Why would anyone still willingly work for an organization that’s doing this? No thought has been put into anything. It’d complicate things if the people that the heroes are fighting had actual depth.

What’s Umbrella’s endgame? With Wesker as CEO, he was probably using the company as a way to achieve ultimate power and to gain immortality through the T-Virus. That’s sounds ok. In the last movie it was shown that Wesker was laying a trap for Alice the entire time. He wanted to ‘eat’ Alice and to consume her DNA so that his mutation would stabilize. In light of this film, why wouldn’t he just go to the sweet Russian Umbrella Prime base?

Profit through bioweapons? They have cloning technology, and the ability to place directives into clones. It doesn’t take much thought to see how this technology is worth more than a million times the bioweapon. People can essentially achieve immortality Sixth Day style. Just download memories into a new, younger clone body. There’s unlimited organ replication. They can bring loved ones back from death (in a non zombie manner J ) They can sell clones to Governments, trained to kill with no moral qualms about following orders. They can replace Presidents with their clones. Possibilities are endless.

But yeah, let’s build a secret base with multiple city blocks to test out bioweapons.

Too many dumb things in the movie that are too trivial to mention.

The audience is hammered with the idea that Umbrella started doing this stuff because of money. It just doesn’t make sense because they could do so much more with what we’ve seen that they could do.

There’s a really simple fix for it too. Umbrella’s one and only goal was to take over the world, Bond-villain style. Why were they creating monsters. They want to shit up the planet, and then repopulate it with those Japanese Umbrella Execs and clones of Mila Jovovich. That’s an idea I can get behind.

What about the Action Scenes? It's a good action movie, right? Stuff blows up?
There's nothing really memorable about any of the fights. It's just a bunch of named good guys shooting at named bad guys shooting at zombies. And they all miss. Nothing particularly unique or spectacular.

Though I didn't like the 2 minute slow motion reverse-shot at the start of the film, I thought it was visually interesting. That's about it.

Resident Evil Retribution feels like a 3/10 movie at the theatres. It's about 5/10 if you want to watch the film and mock it with a couple of friends. (but do it at home, and not at the theatres)

05 July 2012

Amazing Spiderman 2012

I think there’s a really anti-reboot/remake sentiment in the general public. It’s like having new revisions somehow diminishes the originals. I don’t mind remakes at all. It’s another chance at making a story great. If it ends up being bad, I could just ignore it.   I don’t remember much from the Sam Raimi Spiderman films. I’ve watched the first two movies maybe twice, and the third once in the theatre. They were decent films for sure. I just remember a generally good vibe from those movies. I think the third had some problems which could have been fixed.

By now, I’ve probably seen the origin story for Peter Parker half a dozen times. He’s a photographer/high schooler nerd who gets bit by a special (radioactive, sometimes genetically modified) spider. He abuses his powers at first, until through inaction, he caused the death of his Uncle Ben. He then figures out to use his powers responsibly to do some actual heroics.

I think this version of the retelling the best I’ve seen. It shows a version of Peter Parker who isn't above lying to various people to get what he wants.

My problem with the movie is that so much of it was unrealistic. I’m willing to allow the idea that a spider bite can give super powers, or that a man can inject reptile DNA and regrow his arm. That comes with the price of admission.

What I don’t find realistic is Oscorp. They supposedly have twenty (non summer) intern positions available for highschool students. That’s a bit strange, I suppose. I guess if they were students with a lot of potential, Oscorp would want to ‘lock’ them in. Fine. (I loved the idea that there’s a place in fiction with hundreds of bustling scientists in the background doing SCIENCE acitivies!) The problem is that Oscorp has worst security in the world. Peter was able to sneak into a place filled with GM spiders. It was just a single layer of door passcodes. I think most computer OS require you to type your password for every significant change. What they should have done to get Peter his power was to have the interns shown a new batch of genetically modified spiders. The spiders could have been demonstrating hostile behaviors forcing them all to be incinerated. Maybe one of them survived by hiding behind some extra durable webbing, and manages to bite Peter Parker.  

Later on in the movie, Gwen Stacy, another intern, was able to go up to a machine and just fabricate a serum that modifies genetic material. That’s insane, especially when you consider that the place has EVERYTHING NEEDED TO MAKE A BIOLOGICAL WEAPON in one of the world’s biggest cities. 

I think having Curt Connors as the villain could have worked. I remember that a big portion of what made him sympathetic in the show/comics was that he had a family, which was a driving motivation for injecting the serum.  From what we’ve seen in this movie, he’s put a potentially fatal serum inside himself JUST BECAUSE he wants another arm. I’m sure that Oscorp has a synthetic limb division that would like volunteers. If the movie Connors had a wife and son/daughter, and it was revealed that his amputated arm was the result of a genetic defect that was passed down, then he would have had a non-selfish reason for testing it on himself. Dr. Connors would have lived his entire life knowing that he was physically defective and inferior. The only non-broken thing was his intellect. He wants to find a cure so that his kids, and others like them, wouldn’t have to suffer like he did.

Nope. Connors did it because it was his last chance to grow an arm. What’s that? 80% fatality rate? Who cares. He always loved his right hand.

When the Lizard found out that Spiderman was Peter Parker, he wasn’t even shocked. I would have thought that a successful mutation that yields amazing agility and wall climbing abilities would be at least interesting for him. Lizard Smash. Wouldn’t it have been great if the Lizard didn’t magically turn into a creature 3 times his human size? They could have used the scale prosthetics shown in various scenes. You know, let the actor genuinely act, instead of putting a cgi mask on his face.

I was mostly disappointed that a potentially humanizing storyline with the Lizard was reduced to a conservation-of-mass-defying cgi green monster. 

The rest of the movie was pretty predictable. I think I’m more disappointed with this movie because it was so close to being great. Instead, it’s just good.

26 June 2012

Brave 2012

As with a lot of other Pixar movies, there’s a short animation movie right before the main feature. For Brave, it was La Luna. It’s about three generations of people who are supposed to care for and clean up the moon. You see, the phases of the moon only show up because these guardians have been maintaining it. The grandpa and dad are bringing the son for his first maintenance work. The two adults both want the boy to do things their way, from the way he wears his hat to the tools that he’ll use. On the moon, they come across a problem that they couldn’t solve. The boy came into his own, deciding to wear his hat sideways, and use a bit of ingenuity to solve their problem. Once they’re done, they climb back to their boat on Earth and admire the crescent shape of the moon.
When the credits for La Luna came, I jokingly said that the best part of the film had come and we could leave. I wish we did.
There’s something wrong when the best part of a movie happens in the first 5 minutes.
I’m not sure what the appeal is for Brave.

The film tells the story of a (Scottish?) princess who doesn’t want to be married through a contest. She wants to choose her own fate and to marry for love instead. The Queen mother doesn’t agree. The two have a fight and the princess runs away. In an effort to use magic to change the queen’s mind, she accidentally inflicts a curse on her mother. The two of them spend the rest of the film trying to undo the curse, while learning the point of view of the other.

That’s essentially the entire story. I kept waiting for something interesting or memorable to happen, but it never happens.

Brave doesn’t have anything that’s inherently offensive or terrible. It just doesn’t do anything other than tell a generic fairy tale. There are only three locations in the entire film: Spooky Forest, Castle, and Castle Ruins. There’s supposed to be a lesson in Brave, but it’s something like ‘the power to change your own fate is within yourself’. I think the real moral should be ‘talk with your parents/child, and then you wouldn’t have to go to a woods witch to try to poison your mother.” 
There’s no real point in the story where we see why the Queen has changed her mind. Did she see something unique in her daughter while cursed that she couldn’t before? Not really.

What went wrong with Brave?

Toy Story had toys were sentient. They experience emotions just like us.
Monsters Inc. had creatures whose job was to scare children because they believe children are dangerous invaders.
Finding Nemo had a talking fish trying to find his son.
Wall-E had robots gaining sentience in a post-human world, and going through vast distances for love.
Up had a curmudgeonly old man trying to fulfill his dream after a lifetime of setbacks.
Brave is about a princess who wants her mother to be less controlling.

Usually, I think bad films can be salvaged with some minor changes. I don’t think that this film could really be salvaged at all. The problem, I think, is that it has a bad premise. Any of the other Pixar movies above has a more interesting premise. There are more stories that are available from the start. Brave did something worse than Transformers 3, or Harold and Kumar Christmas. It was boring from start to finish. It didn't push any envelope. There's no interesting ideas. There's no cute or funny animal. It was just a waste of time.

01 January 2012

Doing a Triple. Sherlock Holmes 2, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Tin Tin.

Sherlock Holmes 2. Game of Shadows.

I'm not really a fan of old timey period pieces. I actually fell asleep in the theatre briefly during the first Sherlock Holmes.

The film works as an action movie, but there's not really a lot of meat to the story. I'm not sure if it's entirely unreasonable to expect a Sherlock Holmes property to have a great mystery that needs to be solved. The movie begins with Professor Moriarty, who is Holmes' intellectual equal, orchestrating various bombings in Europe… at least that's what Holmes suspects. It turns out that Moriarty has been orchestrating events which were meant to destabilize Europe so that there would be rising tensions for a new, modernized World War. Good thing Holmes is there to stop him, right?

There's no real mystery in this movie, and that's probably its biggest flaw. Holmes and Watson gallivants from place to place exploding things and running from explosions in slow motion.


The movie isn't great, but there are no significant flaws. I just wish that it ended on a different note. I would not have minded if Moriarty did not lose at the end. It would have been refreshing to see the villain win in a movie for once. I would have enjoyed it more if Sherlock Holmes was not explicitly shown at the end of the film as well. A little bit more ambiguity would have been appreciated.


Note: Some of the action sequences were visually annoying. Mixing slow motion with 'fast motion' in the same scene is really distracting. It's absolutely terrible during the Forest scene. If you've seen this you'll know what I mean.


PS: I am really tired of seeing Robert Downey Junior playing his smart douchebag role.


Mission Impossible: Ghost Complex.


I have not watched any Mission Impossible movies before this. I don't think I've really missed a beat on the story though.


Does the story really matter for this type of movie? It's about Tom Cruise and his team pulling off near impossible missions in dangerous circumstances. It's barely relevant. The story here is that there's a crazy highly intelligent man who believes that the world should be bathed in the glow of nuclear light… that the world and humanity will come out of it stronger. He's actually probably got a point. Whatever can survive a mass extinction will probably be the best of the best… I mean just look at the Walking Dead. Those survivors show the best parts of humanity.


Regarding the action, it's fairly well done. I imagine it looks great on IMAX 3D. There's a problem with the Dubai scenes though. When the team is halfway set up with the infiltration, they realize that an unexpected factor has arisen (which is used to raise the tension) , and that the characters have to trade real data to the terrorists. At this point, they decide to continue the ruse. It would actually have made a lot more sense if they decided to not stick with the plan. I don't get it.

My main gripe with the film is that for a super intelligent villain, he's actually pretty darn stupid.


Tin Tin

Tin Tin is a boy-detective-reporter who goes on crazy adventures solving mysteries with his adorable dog. I am not really familiar with the series at all. I've seen some characters before but I don't really know their names. At first, I thought the dog was named Tin Tin, and the movie was about its crazy adventure.

The first part of the movie is slow, but it crescendos nicely by the end of the film. Scenes are lively, but not distracting. There's just enough going on in each scene to be visually appealing without being bombarded by weird antics. What's really surprising for me is that, while marketed for a younger audience, the film features the main character owning and using his gun, and the side-character captain is an alcoholic. It seems like something that would have had a lot of discussion behind the scenes. I'm just glad it ended up the way it did.

The setup for the story is pretty sloppy. Tin Tin is at the local market when he spots an awesome model ship. Just after he buys it, two mysterious persons try to purchase it from him on the spot. Turns out  the model ship contains a clue to the adventure.  A bit too convenient.


I would have liked to see more consequence to the character's actions. A lot of property is damaged during the movie, and people don't really seem to react to that appropriately. They're really minor criticism. Is it hypocritical for me to judge this film more lightly on the basis that it's a cartoon? I thought the end product was good, and that the characters (especially the dog) to be endearing. Turns out that people are able to put up with more garbage with things that they enjoy.


 Sherlock Holmes 2 - 5/10

Mission Impossible - 6/10

Tin Tin - 7/10

06 November 2011

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas Explosion 3D.

I could rant about the commercialization of Christmas, and how commercials seem to start the second after Halloween, but that’s not really important. It’s just weird to have a Christmas movie in the first week of November. Am I the only one who thinks it’s insane to essentially spend 1/6th of the year celebrating Christmas?

I went to a two dimensional showing despite the fact 3D is in the title. Whenever there’s a ‘3D’ moment, I am reminded of how terrible this whole 3D fad really is. Gratuitous 3D is the worst. There are scenes with stuff flying towards the camera, hitting the camera, and cracking it. Do people actually like that kind of stuff? Things that bring you out of a movie? They should have a 2D cut for the 2D version without tall the crap flying towards the screen.  “This (fake) 3D penis is really awesome. Just wish I saw it in 3D so it’s right up against my face. Thanks, James Cameron, you Avatard. “  
It’s been years since Harold and Kumar are roommates, and they’ve grown apart. That’s not unusual because statistically people lose half their friends every 6 years. Harold’s become a successful banker-man with a large house and a beautiful wife. Kumar’s been kicked out of the medical practice because he’s failed his drug test. He’s been living in squalor with his life focused on chasing the next marijuana high.

The day before Christmas, a magical package containing a magical joint is delivered to Kumar’s apartment addressed to Harold. When Kumar delivers it to Harold’s new address, the magical joint starts the magical adventure by burning down the Christmas tree, which was a gift from his wife’s violent Mexican cartel-ish dad. So the adventure begins with them trying to find and replace the McGuffin tree.

I guess I just had too high of an expectation for this film and franchise. I thought Go to White Castle was a genuinely good film. Escape from Guantanamo Bay was an alright film. It’s been a while since I’ve watched those movies. From what I could remember, they started off pretty reasonably, and were steady slides into more and more absurd situations. They culminate at an absolutely insane point where everything sort of flows together. 

3D is easily the worst of the trilogy. From the start, the relationship between Harold and Kumar were strained. They don’t really like each other anymore, and it gives off a weird vibe. By the end though, they learn to become BFFs and everything works out.  That’s kinda cool, I guess. This film starts with a pretty insane premise and never really attempts to bring it back to reality. In this movie, it is clear that all the characters in this world are larger-than-life. They have a car accident and a car is ruined. Of course they won’t call the police or their insurance company. They were mistaken as extras in a musical while hanging out at a back alley. Despite their protests, the lady was apparently able to get them in full costumes and into the rehearsal. Movie logic :/ 

 In the original, the world is shown to be fairly normal with unusual freaks that the two characters meet. Harold and Kumar are still grounded to reality.  In this movie, it is clear that all the characters in this world are larger-than-life and does things just to move to the next sketch. It feels less organic.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely funny scenes in the movie. They’re just too few and far in-between. The same baby joke is rehashed throughout the film. Two characters get locked in the same place for half the film. The best parts of the film are the short vignettes when we’re taken away from the characters.  I think the film would probably be better if the characters were high the entire time, that it wasn’t clear if everything is really happening as we see it. 

As is, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas didn’t work for me. I had a terrible experience during and after the film. I would sit in silence as people around me were laughing. I understood the jokes, but they felt completely flat. Honestly, I think the combination of “THREE DEE” and “CHRISTMAS MOVIE” has turned me completely off to the film. 

I wish I hadn’t paid money to watch this. I’m sure all the funny bits would end up on youtube anyway. 3/10