Star Trek Picard – Four Episodes in and what is this?

I just watched episode four of Star Trek Picard and…If it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend and our room mate were watching this I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s awful, just not interesting enough to keep watching. There have been a number of scenes that make me uncomfortable (like the brother and sister that get way too physical) or annoyed (why is she calling him JP?), or just plain angry (ya, let’s reinvent the timeline again.) But while those scenes detracted from my enjoyment they were just a few scenes of the whole. The vast majority of it has been…. meh.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was little, right there with Captain Kirk flying off to various planets and defeating the problem of the week. There are so many of them that I love, from Spoke and the flowers that made him feel, to the disease that attacks anyone hitting puberty. Then there was The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9,  Enterprise, and every single movie (even the new ones). I’ve watched them all. I enjoyed them all. From the convoluted plots of the Cardassians, to the tribbles, and the invisible monsters only Data could see.

(I do admit I skipped Discovery, I didn’t want to pay extra to watch it on yet another streaming service. I’m only watching Picard because I’m not paying for it, or room mate is.)

So when I come to Picard I am there as a fan of the franchise. Sure, there have been episodes of the old series that I didn’t like, or I felt could be better, but on the whole I loved them and I kept coming back for more.

I think the biggest problem I have with Picard isn’t even the story, or the pieces in the plot that take me out of the world. It’s the way they are choosing to film it.

Every season before (minus Discovery, since I didn’t watch it and I don’t know) was in an episodic mode. That is: each episode was a self contained story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end revolving around a specific monster or problem. Sometimes the episode would be cut into two or three pieces, and often there was a larger story that connected all of the episodes together, but on the whole when you got to the end of an episode you felt like it had a satisfying conclusion.

Now Picard is here, and it does not have a structure to it. The first episode may be the only one that had a whole story, but even that felt incomplete and unfinished. It was the opening dragging you into the series, but it wasn’t satisfying. There was no conclusions, just questions.

Then the second episode happened, and there were even more questions, and only a few small answers. It gave them a direction to head in, but again it wasn’t a self contained episode, just a piece of the whole.

Episode three happened and I hated the new character introduced the first time she called the admiral “JP”. Who does that? Even in the flash back while he is still an admiral she is calling him JP instead of Admiral, or Jean-Luc. It felt entirely disrespectful. And again…. no satisfying conclusion, just more questions (like how did the scientist get the disrupter from the trained secret assassins? Is she a double agent, or is it just bad writing? And how did an old man and two older Romulans take out a group of highly trained assassins? But lets just wave the wand and forget about that.)

Episode four attempted to have a base plot. They went to a planet to get help from an assassin nun, and go on their way. But again it wasn’t very satisfying. It didn’t feel fleshed out, and every persons motive on that planet just feels…off. Picard is a shadow of the man he used to be, unable to command a room. Unable to use words to fight for him like he once did. Instead he stumbles over himself, and his past, and ignores the pain that he caused others. A man who used to be good at reading a room, and figuring out what to say, who respected the customs of other species, now walks right over theirs. It isn’t until someone else takes charge and kills the “bad guy” that Picard finally admits he screwed up…sort of. It was such a half assed apology.

Next episode looks like a casino planet episode. All I can think of is the casino planet from Last Jedi, and how absolute trash that section was. I hope it isn’t as bad. Mostly I hope there is a satisfying episode with a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have hope.

I expect all episodes to be pieces of a the whole instead of self contained episodes. That makes me wonder why they bothered to release it as a weekly episodic series instead of just releasing it all at once. If they did release it all at once then at least we could watch it all and evaluate it as a whole. Instead we are getting episodes that feel disjointed and separated, that don’t really feel satisfying. (The answer is money, they wanted subscribers, and that’s why they released it this way, but I digress.)

If I were the only one watching this I would just wait until the full thing was out and watch it then if I got really bored and couldn’t find anything else to watch. Because I live with two guys who want to watch it… I’ll watch it with them. Also of note is they didn’t grow up on Star Trek like I did. I know our room mate saw Discovery (and liked it) but he hasn’t watched all of the other series. My boyfriend has only watched part of TNG. Neither of them knew who Seven of Nine was, and most of the lore is going right over their head. I find it interesting that they are enjoying it more than I am, but not surprised really.

It doesn’t feel like Star Trek. It almost feels more like Roswell, actually. Teen drama that just happens to happen in a star ship. But….we’ll see how next week goes.

The Mandalorian – AWESOME!

Cowboys in space, that’s exactly what we wanted and what we got. It’s an awesome show, and I am so glad I got free Disney+ from Verizon to watch it.

Will I renew my subscription after the year is over? Probably not. I’ll do exactly what I’ve been doing with other services. I’ll reup for a month once the thing I want to see is completely out, binge, then cancel. The only one we’ve been keeping an account with is Crunchy Roll and that’s just because there are so many anime’s to watch that it makes it worth it. Sort of like when Netflix had everything there. Now it doesn’t, and I’d just rather not watch most of what’s out there.

But as for Mandalorian, specifically, I loved it. Anyone who reads my blog might know that I wasn’t a big fan of the new trilogy movies, but Mandalorian feels like a return to classic Star Wars. They don’t make it complicated, or add in lots of social commentary, they just make it fun. And that’s what I wanted.

I liked it so much I did some fan art.

boda

Regardless, Baby Yoda is adorable. It’s fun to watch the father son dynamic of the series as Mando takes more responsibility for the youngling. I love seeing a good fatherly role model on tv for a change, and the bounty of the week sort of structure they have going is pretty good. Plus… BABY YODA!

And the season finally just opened up a whole bunch of possibilities for the future!

So if you, or a friend, have access to Disney+ I’d suggest watching it. It’s worth your time.

Review: Rise of Skywalker

Since the movie just came out today I won’t be writing any spoilers today, just an overview, and I’ll give my spoiler review in a week or so.

Okay, first, let me tell you where I’m coming from as a fan of the Star Wars movies.

I grew up in the 80’s, and I watched the original trilogy on laser disks that my parents had. I watched them a lot because they were some of my favorite films, and they shaped my view of science fiction (or rather science fantasy) going forward.

The second trilogy came out and we watched all three of them in the theaters. While there were parts I wasn’t a fan of I still enjoyed them. There was still decent story telling, even if a few characters weren’t that great, and the Anakin story arch wasn’t that strong. The clones, the large scale battles, and especially the beautiful sets and dresses for Padme all made me love Star Wars even more.

Then the Disney movies started. The first one gave me hope. Sure, Rey was a boring character that didn’t seem to have much direction or personality yet, but there were some great moments, and some call backs to the original series that gave me hope that they were taking their ownership of the Star Wars franchise to heart and really going to do it justice. They just needed time to get their feet under them and the next movie would be even better.

Rogue One I loved. It seemed like a fully developed movie, with a great cast, fantastic story line, a lead actress with a personality and some character flaws to over come. By the end of the movie I was about in tears because I had grown to really love those characters and believe their friendship and camaraderie to the end. That, in my opinion, is one of the best movies in the series.

Then the Last Jedi happened. I did a whole review of that movie here, but suffice it to say that while there were some nice scenes I still think the writing was garbage, the pay out for the first movie fell flat, and I feel that it is one of the WORST Star Wars movies that ever existed. It was so bad I didn’t even care about Solo, and still haven’t seen it. Maybe I’ll watch it when it comes out on Disney Plus cause I’m still not willing to pay for it.

So when Rise of Skywalker was announced I wasn’t that keen on seeing it. If my boyfriend and our room mate hadn’t been going (and paying) I probably wouldn’t have. But we did… And I think I’m glad I did.

First, I didn’t hate it. I don’t think it was the best Star Wars, but it wasn’t the worst either. There were some parts I actually enjoyed, and I thought they did a better job of giving Rey a personality, even though I still think she (the character not the actress) was one of the weakest parts of the movie. The actress did what she could with the character, but from the start they billed her as an all powerful Christ like figure there to save the world who never fails at anything, and there isn’t a lot you can do with that except… well… succeed.

Still, when I look at the last movie and what Abrams had to work with I was surprised how well he put together a coherent plot. He had to deal with all the hype of who Snoke was and what he represented being utterly destroyed upon his death. He had to deal with a demoralized Poe, a broken rebel alliance, and a cowardly Luke Skywalker. And then he had to make a coherent story where the good guys win.

The general complaints I had were that the director, Abrams, had to cram so much into the movie that everything ended up being quick cut, and I at times I felt like I was getting too much information at once. And the ending. I hated the ending.

There will be people who absolutely love this movie. I know at least three of them, one of which has already watched it twice. There will be a small amount of people who hate it, though some of them are hating on it more because of how the fandom was treated after Last Jedi then the movie itself. I think if they had been treated better instead of being called all sorts of awful things then they may have had a kinder view of the movie, even with it’s flaws.

For me the movie was a 7/10. It was a good popcorn movie with a few cringy parts, but the ending made me never want to watch it again. Would I recommend it? Only if you’re walking in with lower expectations. If you go in with lower expectations and get an okay film I think you’ll enjoy it. If you’re expecting it to be the best movie ever then you’re more than likely going to be disappointed.

Review: Code 8

Code 8, this isn’t your parents super hero movie.

You know the super powered mutants that saved the world, and did good deeds? No, this is a world where supers are second class citizens, left to be homeless and destitute because the unpowered are afraid of them. A world where what you are matters more than who you are.

Code 8 is a dark, gritty film. Think outlaw X-men in a heist film and you’ll come close. And it’s all around fantastic!

Back in 2016 they released a short film of Code 8 where an electric powered man, Connor, tried to save one of his fellow powered co-workers, and ended up causing an EMP that knocked out power for several city blocks. That was a fantastic film, well received, and incredibly well done with both CGI and practical effects that gave you a window into a fully developed world.

After that short film they went to Indiegogo and got funding to make a full length movie. At 1.5 hours long they expanded the world, added some characters, and made a few changes to really set it apart.

First, in the original short film Connor had a son. In the feature length film he has a mother who is getting sicker as the film progresses. The lack of money, and inability to save his mother from a disease they can’t afford to treat is the driving force behind his character.

Next the scene from the original film wasn’t in the full length film. They kept only a few parts, like the fact they were on a construction sight, but went in a totally different direction. They built up the action, having Connor slowly work into his powers as he has been suppressing them all of his life.

When the local crew comes looking for an electric the need to save his mother gets him to join up, and he starts down a road with the local crime boss.

The full length movie was dark and gritty. The character development progressed in a believable manner. The CGI wasn’t overwhelming, but added to the film. If I had a complaint it may be the sound. The music was on theme, but the sound mixing at times didn’t do a great job of keeping the level of the sound steady throughout. Still, it wasn’t too distracting.

The other part that could have been better is the ending. There were several plot threads in the film, and the ending tried to wrap them all up, but I still had questions. One thread I really wanted to see fleshed out more was Agent Park, and his daughter, but I had the feeling the writers were focusing all of their attention on Connor and the cops story line was just a little flavor thrown in.

If they decide to make a second movie (which I hope they do) I would love to see Connor and Agent Park working together, even if Connor is still on the wrong side of the law. That would be an awesome story. However there are currently plans to make a tv series around the property. No dates on when that will come out.

Go, watch it. You can rent it on Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, apple TV and several other places. It was also playing in select theaters in LA.

Review: Dust

Some days I get lost in the back alleys of YouTube, taking in amazing short films. Some are funny, some poignant, some beautifully done. A few stand out above the crowd as true masterful strokes.

Dust by Ember Labs is one such film. (Also available on Vimeo) This 26 min film is a mix of fantasy and science fiction that captivates the audience with the world building, and touches our emotions with the story telling.

Set in a world where everything is evolving incredibly fast, the trackers are there to record the evolutions, and find cures for diseases and poisons that might come of the quick adaptations. Humans, of course, have locked themselves behind walls to try and save themselves, but a wall doesn’t stop a virus.

The world is shown thorough the eyes of a man who has lost his way. Once a tracker, he has withdrawn into the city that he used to disdain. Now he has to venture back out into the wilderness to find the cause of a new virus, Dust, and a cure.

The CGI is beautifully done in this film. From insects with glowing wings, to interesting mushrooms that emit clouds of spores, and a large beast deep in the forest. The wilderness settings give stark contrast to the walled city rising up through the trees, and the apothecary shop sets the stage for our would be tracker.

Everything from color, to atmosphere, to sound, blends together to create a beautiful experience. Well worth the watch.

Review: Terminator Dark Fate

I loved the terminator franchise. It, like Alien, RoboCop, Star Trek and Star Wars, shaped my view of science fiction and action films. Sometimes gritty, often funny, with fantastic fight scenes and eye catching special effects.

Of course when they announced Terminator Dark Fate I watched the trailer hoping for a great new movie….and it failed to compel me. All of the things I wanted, action, special effects, a touch of humor…not there. What they did have was an all female cast. That was the important point they had to tell me in this trailer. We aren’t protecting a guy who will save the world, no, this time it’s a WOMAN. The blatant “for women” mentality behind the advertisement completely turned me off. I’m not looking for girl power, I want a good story!

But when my roommate bought us tickets I didn’t say no. The three of us went off to the theater. I hoped for a decent movie, but my expectations were not high after the trailer.

Watching the movie I have to say that the trailers did not do the film any favors. The movie is a decent enough popcorn flick. Lots of action, a few great laughs, but no real meat to the film. It was a solid okay.

A few minor spoilers beyond, but I try not to be very specific.

A few things did bother me about the movie. One, they absolutely ret-conned a large section of the franchise. This is a series that deals with time travel, so it isn’t unheard of, but the way they did it felt like they were just dismissing all the previous movies as if they didn’t matter.

In fact when the new female hero finally meets up with Sarah Conner her reaction is…. “Who are you?” She has never heard of Sara Conner, effectively overwriting the previous history.

The best part of the movie was actually Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had the funniest lines, giving them in his usual dead pan terminator style. His action sequences were some of the best. He fought off the new terminator while the person they were rescuing stood by with wide eyes watching everything happen.

On that note, let’s talk about the new cast. We have Grace, the augmented human from the future who isn’t half bad. She’s kind of a bad ass, and kicks some butt. However, I felt like we didn’t get enough time to really get to know her as anything but a body guard. She hides the reason she is helping Dani until the end, and by then I just didn’t care enough.

Then there is Dani, the person Grace was sent to save. She almost seems to go from scared little girl to inspirational leader in five seconds flat. She lets others fight her battles for her. She keeps trying to run back into danger when she knows it will kill her. Over all she wasn’t an effective character. She isn’t going to be this inspiration just because future girl says so.

When I saw the original Terminator I felt like Sara Conner was an amazing woman who dealt with the bad hand that she was given, and made the best of it. She was scared at first, but she made every effort to fight for her life, and for everyone else’s life. She didn’t keep running back into danger, or stand around staring at everyone else fighting. She ran when she needed to, and she fought when she had to. She grew into something amazing so that she could inspire her son to do the same.

Dark Fate had the same problem that a lot of modern movies seem to have. The characters don’t grow over time, it’s more of an instant thing. Something happens, or a flip switches in their head, and all of a sudden they are a new, better version of themselves, if they grow at all. It’s unrealistic, and abrasive.

The last part that I found really cringy about the entire movie was the whole “they want you for your womb, not for you” part. Yes, I get it, Conner is pissed off at the world because her life was messed up, but the whole “we want you for your womb” part was over the top and reaching. Conner was a great character because her strength inspired her son to become who he was. That was the point. Without her he would have been nothing.

Still, the cringy parts are short, and easily overlooked if you just want a nice popcorn flick to get you through the weekend. It did have some great fight scenes, and the new terminator was kind of cool with the combination metal skeleton and liquid skin. And, of course, Arnold was fantastic.

Review: Dark Phoenix (no spoilers)

We just got back from the Dark Phoenix and… it was okay.

There were some great action scenes. I loved a lot of the special affects. The actors did a great job with the story they were given. There were, however, a few things that didn’t make sense. Unfortunately the part that made this just okay, and not amazing for me was the character development. It really didn’t have time to develop as we hopped around from one place to another so that Fox could bring in all of their licenses characters with impunity.

I feel like the Phoenix Saga could be an amazing series, or a trilogy that is allowed to develop and mature. Let the audience fall in love with the characters, see their pain and turmoil. Don’t just cram it all into two hours and say “there’s a movie for ya.”

I actually thought Sophie Turner did an amazing job of playing Jean Grey. I wasn’t sure it would be a good fit since I had only seen her in GoT before, but she did very well, and very shortly into the movie I just saw her as Jean Grey instead of Sansa. But the plot was clipped together, with large parts of her story left feeling…unfinished. This wasn’t Turner’s doing, but rather the stiff formatting of the film.

This could easily have been broken into either two or three movies. First section would be her getting the power of the phoenix and disappearing. Second would be her coming to terms with everything. That would have fixed a majority of the problems in the film.

The cringiest part was Raven saying “maybe this should be the X-women.” She conveniently forgets that Nightcrawler and Quicksilver did most of the work and complains to Xavior that the women are doing all the saving of the men. So ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with girl power, but please can you respect the other people that help you regardless of their sex? (The rest of the story had nothing to do with women power, it was just a throw away comment that stood out for how terrible it is.)

There were a few other sections that felt stilted, or off. A lot of it boiled down to rushing the plot and not giving time to develop the intentions and transition of peoples ideas. One second they want to kill someone, the next they decide to save her. The switch happens so quickly that it was unbelievable.

Overall it was an okay film. It did have some cool scenes, and I enjoyed seeing the phoenix effects on the big screen. I probably wouldn’t watch it again though.