Mini-Reviews #25

A few remarks on several movies and shows that I’ve viewed during the last couple of months.
And this time, I’ll try something new and add also a star rating to it…

Film

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc: Part I - The Egg of the King/Part II - The Battle for Doldrey/Part III - The Advent
The whole Berserk thing was new to me (not a big anime guy), I just catched it by chance on Netflix, so I can’t compare it with the mangas, or older/newer shows/movies. But what I can say is that these three movies were rather interesting; not the greatest thing ever, but I wished they had continued this arc with more movies of this kind.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Terminator: Dark Fate
Uh, just let this franchise die, please! The original Terminator one was a cool, grim little gem, the second one already showed that they did not have a lot of ideas for expanding the universe. But it had enough ideas, money and effects to make T2 one of the best action movies ever. Everything after it were just pale imitiations, with not enough distinctive features (exception to the rule: The sadly short-lived TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
It (Chapter Two)
I was not a big fan of the first chapter, but this one is even worse: Strong cast (that is mostly wasted), and a lot of cheap jump scares and incoherent storytelling; it also contains not enough interesting or varying stuff for its long runtime.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
In The Tall Grass
A film from Netflix – by now, that sounds more like a threat than anything else to me. But, to be fair, this is not total garbage, only small litter. It’s just not enough for a feature-length movie. If this were an episode from something like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, it would’ve probably fared better with me.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Gemini Man
Hm, alright. Looks good (as expected by a movie from Ang Lee), although some of the CGI in the scenes don’t hold up. But nothing special, sadly.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Frozen II
Similar opinion like for the first part: I’m not really the target audience for this, but it came up and like good animation (also, I’m a sucker for Into The Unknown… 🎵 😜 ). So, it was alright.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Zombieland II: Double Tap
To be honest, I can’t even remember the first one very well: It’s still sitting there on my Netflix queue, for a second viewing, at some time later… But I do remember that I liked it. Same with this one: This sequel was not really neccessary, but it had a lot of good qualities, funny scenes and a good cast. What else do you need!?
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Favourite
Liked it: Good actors, well played storyline, interesting cinematography at times — I just wished that it had more “mental duels” between Sarah and Abigail; anyways: recommended.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
Alright, speaking in my defense: I just saw it because I’m a completist and SF nerd. The previous two installments were already swinging between boring, bad and mediocre, but this one takes big-budget madness to a new level: For my understanding, it’s definitely a Hilariocity!
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Bloodshot
Why (and what) the hell did I just watch?! Oh, right, because I actually read one positive review for it and it came up on a favourable occasion. The review was either paid advertisement or the reviewer was brain-dead. Total crap!
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Onward
A new Pixar/Disney animation feature; by definition, such a thing cannot be totally bad. And it wasn’t, in fact it was quite entertaining for certain segments. But also somewhat mediocre, compared to other works from Pixar.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus
Well, this may need a bit of explanation: Some 10+ years or so ago, in a particular summer, I was rather “down in the dumps”, so to speak, meaning my mood and mind. It was related to the job situation and my outlook on life and future in general then (hmm, speaking of which…). By chance, one late evening, I catched an episode of that weird cartoon show on TV while channel-hopping. I’ve never heard about that before, but it looked and sounded fascinating.

And each evening, a batch of those episodes was aired. And when all (of the few) were shown, the loop started anew. So, over the course of a few weeks, I was on a strange, nightly ‘Zim’ diet, digesting this wonderfully weird show. (And it is a mad, exhausting, overbearing style; fitting at best only for short bursts.)

Anyways, that was a long time ago; my emotional state changed again and the re-runs stopped at some point. But I always kept a nice memory for these characters in mind (and Zim is often my avatar image of choice).

Fast forward to now: Out of the blue (to me, at least), suddenly there is new material on Netflix, a movie even.
My first thought: Great! The second though: Uh, oh…

Doubts were forming in my head:

  1. Is it the same style, or some kind of update-with-too-much-bad-CGI?
  2. Does it still click with with me, or was that special bond just for a short moment in time, linked to my self back then?
  3. A movie would be approximately the lenght of three episodes – maybe too much? Maybe an overdose of that zany style?

The answers:

  • It’s the same style!
  • Yes, the connection was still there! (After a few minutes getting used to it again.)
  • No, it was definitley not too long!

So, a grand return in my eyes – but with the strong caveat: You probably should see Invader Zim before and like it; this is maybe not for the uninitiated…
★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Knives Out
A well-made classic “whodunnit” film by Rian Johnson and and an impeccable cast.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Seven Psychopaths/7 Psychos
I like all of the involved people: The director/writer Martin McDonagh, the actors (Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, etc.), but holy shit, what a mess of film: No real structure, no noteworthy plot, and few noteworthy scenes.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Aloha
And here, I can copy the same text from above almost verbatim; I just need to replace the names of the maker/actors…
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
The Gentlemen
Classic Guy Ritchie, what else do I need to I write. Go and watch it.
★★★★ 4/5 stars

TV

The Mandalorian — Season 1
Wow, that was unexpected! Considering the trash that the Star Wars universe was on the big screen for the last… well, decades by now, this show was a breath of fresh air. Mind you, we’re not speaking about breaking any real new grounds in terms of storytelling, but it’s a nice divergence to the standard formula.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Witcher — Season 1
I knew hardly anything about the games/books, only insomuch that I knew that they existed, so I wasn’t distracted by any (non-)resemblance of the characters to the books or games. The way of telling the story was neat (although it did not really work in all details, if you dig down), but the lack of budget or time (or both) was showing at times, too. I have cautious optimism for the next season.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
The Boys — Season 1
Good first season, but not too great. Interesting premise, but sometimes I struggled with the plausibilty of the world that was built here (mind you, we’re talking about a SF world, populated with superheros…). Also, while the idea of superheroes not being the ‘supergood’ entities everyone expects them to be is not overdone, it’s also not too unfamiliar (too me), so a few of the ‘shocking events’ weren’t that (and they relied a bit too much on shock/surprise values at times). But, in total: Good cast, good first season, let’s wait and a see what will come next.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Brooklyn Nine-Nine — Season 5
Yeah, OK, still funny, still likable. But, as with many sitcoms, a little fatigue sets in after so many years/seasons.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Happy! — Season 2
I liked this one actually better than the previous season. While the first one had the advantage of the element of surprise, it somehow quickly turned into an one trick pony show. This second season is more varied, generally more interesting, and yet kept its mad core.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Silicon Valley — Season 6
A good, funny show until the very end.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Dracula — Season 1
Mini-series or whatever: Three movies. It was not great, but a good watch. And while I did not hate the final episode/movie as much as many other reviewers, it was definitely the most disappointing of the lot and seemed out of place (while the first two had some interesting ideas for the classic Dracula myth).
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Castlevania — Season 3
It’s a weird show; I’m not fully on-board with it, but it has something going on for it… This season seemed a bit better (or maybe I just got accustomed to the storytelling). And since the episodes, resp. the whole season, is so short (actually, bit too short for my liking), it’s an easy watch.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Mr. Robot — Season 4
I came for the quite realistic potrayal of current computer tech (at least compared to other shows and films), stayed for the fascinating art (storytelling, visual and aural presentation) and now leave with the good feeling of having watched a really great show. Only small reservations for this last season, though: It is drifting a tiny bit too much (for my liking) into ‘psycho-philosophy’ extremes — although it does fit the core of the show, and the characters, I was at times a bit out of touch with it. But still:
Season: ★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Show: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Star Trek: Picard — Season 1
RedLetterMedia had already reviews of several episodes, and now also Mr. Plinkett’s Review, and just like Discovery, they didn’t like it and could explain it way better than I ever could; so go watch it. It’s the same trash as Discovery (weak plot, lack of logic, form-before-function, etc.), but this time, it’s even more personal: They have tainted the sacredness of ST:TNG – and I’m only half-joking… 😡
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Mindhunter — Season 1 + 2
Well produced (David Fincher), interesting premise/background. I think I liked the first season slightly better than the second. Although I find that the characters are missing something, not sure exactly what; despite the complexity of character they (try to) display — or maybe that’s it: Just trying too hard. Anyway, probably no need to think more about it, because it looks like Netflix will not produce another season of it.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Kingdom — Season 1 + 2
Zombie action in medieval Koraea, with some soapy drama. It’s an interesting, new take on the genre. As usual, I have some problems with the asian way of presentation, and although the seasons are rather short, there is a lot of filler time that I skipped/fast-forwarded. I’ll wait with cautious optimism for a third season…
(My gut feeling is mediocre/OK, but thinking a bit more about it, it just deserves two stars from me; strange mismatch, I know.)
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Better Call Saul — Season 5
What can I say: It’s the fifth season, and I’m still on-board. It’s a slow burn thriller, just like Breaking Bad (I’d say even slooower), but it fits the style and tone of the story. AFAIK, the next season is planned to be the last, so we’ll probably catch up to the BB timeline, and maybe even (more) beyond – let’s wait and see what happens next.
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Haus des Geldes/Money Heist/La Casa de Papel — Season 1 (only episodes 1, 2, 3)
I know that many people like, even love, this show. I tried it, but couldn’t stand it: The premise, the characters, the knowledge that this will be spread over multiple seasons… So, after the third episode, I said Goodbye.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Westworld — Season 3
I repeat myself: Not the biggest fan. And the radical shift of tone, location etc. in this season didn’t change that point of view. Yes, it looks stylish, sleek and one can sense the production value. But, it’s so empty, confusing, incoherent.

Westworld pretends to be a ‘oh, so deep and meaningful’ show, but the actual core is pretty thin and shaky, often sugar coated with nice looking (action) sequences. And this season, there was also a lot of just treading water in a lot of episodes.

And the whole fundamental topics (‘What is freedom? What is free will? What is the meaning of being a human or a robot/AI?') has been done before, and better (e.g. in ST:TNG‘s Data episodes, or on 2004’s Battlestar Galactica, and lot of other shows and movies in the past).

So, I’ll probably keep on watching, but I’m not anticipating anything grand anymore.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars