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TV Show Reviews

HBO’s Watchmen (2019) Mini-Series is a Substantially “Adequate” Sequel to Alan Moore’s Graphic Novel

The Following Review is Spoiler-Free

I’m a bit fed up with people recently treating the subject of “racism” as an “only for political reasons” commodity in entertainment media. Why can’t a movie/TV show just simply explore the topic of xenophobia without being called SJW propaganda? If your only argument is, “oh, because it uses white supremacy as a central thematic topic in a time like 2019,” then the far-right population has really gotten desperate—just as much so as the far-left public did last decade, resulting in the reinvigoration of a term like “SJW.” As someone who is a detester of political correctness and that of unconscious racial bias in politics (duh), I can safely say Watchmen is not an SJW television program. It takes no clear sides of your red and blue color party spectrum, and if anything, jabs at both liberals and conservatives through a violent exaggeration of toxic, modern political aggression. 

Plus, blending history and political philosophy into Watchmen is a very Watchmen thing to do too, so I don’t know why people got riled up about it in the first place but okay contradicting society. Need I remind you, the comic-book is a possibly communist piece, no matter what Alan Moore says. If anything, HBO’s television show is less liberal than the actual source material you apparently know so well.

Now onto the actual review, of the actual TV show’s quality, as an actual art—instead of shamefully protesting and botting on Rotten Tomatoes before actually seeing the mini-series itself…

HBO’s Watchmen is a “light” sequel to Alan Moore’s infamous comic-book series under the same title. The book as well as Zack Snyder’s under-appreciated interpretation of the graphic novel, both explored the now infamous concept of superhero characters being more of a conflicting attribute of human society rather than a positive one. The ambitious follow-up applies the controversial logic of its source material with more modern-day social grounds. Aiming rapid commentary at numerous justice system issues, terrorism conflicts, historical regrets, and America’s future of a maybe-too-sensitive culture (AKA, a far-left way of life), this new rendition amplifies 21st-century communal quarrels into bigger than life affairs almost (but not really) as well as the original Watchmen story had done so to 80s affairs. So, evidently, things are exaggerated in Watchmen for a greater effect like The 7th Kalvary, a white supremacist group—misleadingly inspired by Rorschach’s diary that he idiotically sent to a far-right committee—that hopefully has doubt of existing at such a large rate in America during 2019. But, as always, this is the edgy superhero genre that Moore helped innovate in the first place, so when is an intense story like this ever not exaggerated?  

Angela, Looking Glass, and Hooded Justice all have gifted, well-utilized character development and backstories that really put the narrative at hand as a powerful multi-perspective outlet. More importantly, though, Jeremy Irons is a total freak in this show as the notorious Ozymandias. The mini-series additionally includes a bundle of worthwhile set pieces, costumes, and sci-fi concepts occurring in this new addition to the Watchmen universe. There is surprisingly some exceptionally tasteful and slick directing in here as well, especially in the often black-and-white sixth episode. 

Like Zack Snyder’s take on Watchmen, however, HBO’s live-action rekindling of the graphic novel is quite flawed. The score and soundtrack are sometimes a little overkill—love you, Trent, don’t take it the wrong way, the editing just boosted the music too heavily most of the time and sometimes it felt out of place. It’s a fabulous 3-part score on its own, nonetheless. The special effects are sometimes unbalanced in quality, with some looking adequate and some looking unusually humiliating. The editing gets spiteful and particularly zippy from time to time. There’s some awkward dialogue here and there, not to mention. Cheesy villain motives are splattered ridiculously throughout the mini-series. A lot of the scenarios and convolutions cooked up in the insane scale of the show are sometimes a little difficult to believe, leading to some odd character decisions or unbuyable narrative circumstances. And, as always, it’s hard not to dispatch the plot-holes and conveniences in a show that brims itself with almost too many twists and turns that are vigorously obsessed with trying to even out the occasionally rocky pace. It’s additionally unfortunate that the last episode of Watchmen features almost every superhero finale cliché imaginable and for a show that didn’t need the anti-climactic extravaganza, it feels entirely out of left-field. In general, it’s furthermore written quite haphazardly, involving contradicting character decisions, momentously rushed plot points, and preposterously over-stretched MacGuffins. 

A part of me wishes that there was a more distinct and charismatic style to the show like in Zack Synder’s Watchmen, but for what it’s worth, as a whole, I’d say they’re both almost on par with each other in quality despite the fact that the mini-series has an utterly exhausting conclusion. The follow-up to Alan Moore’s graphic novel is devastatingly faithful to the offensive, political, and thematic explorations of its predecessor, presenting extreme new ideas as well as old ones. No matter what naysayers may be saying at the moment about this anticipated sequel to Watchmen, I’d suggest checking it out yourself and seeing what all the fuss is really about before saying a word on its rumored political properties.

Watchmen Math:

1. It’s Summer and We’re Running out of Ice = B

2. Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship = B-

3. She Was Killed by Space Junk = B-

4. If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own = B-

5. Little Fear of Lighting = B

6. The Extraordinary Being = A-

7. An Almost Religious Awe = B-

8. A God Walks into Abar = B+

9. See How They Fly = D+

Verdict: B-

The continuity of Asian lineage in this mini-series also made my brain numb. No specific name spoilers, but a Caucasian and Asian girl grows up to become a full Asian mom (already, WTF, I know), is impregnated by a full Caucasian dad, and gives birth to a full Asian baby. Something does not add up here. When you see the show, you’ll know what I’m nitpicking about. These are the kinds of details that strangely tick-off mixed people. 

“Watchmen” is now available to stream on HBO.

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TV Show Reviews

Quick-Thoughts: Better Call Saul Season 4 (2018)

WARNING: Spoilers for Better Call Saul Seasons 1-4

Better Call Saul season 4 continues the show’s strengths in building divine character pieces that even legendary tales would struggle to vie against. James McGill’s brute arc in this season is genuinely the best character development I’ve observed in this show yet! The character’s reaction and handling to his brother Chuck’s death seizes one of the most unconventional routes I’ve ever witnessed. There even could be an argument made additionally that James’s evocative transformation into Saul Goodman in this season is on par, if not, grander and more polished than Walter White’s hideous transformation into Heisenberg—Vince Gilligan’s writing evidently has yet to decline, as it becomes subtler and subtler. How they express how Chuck, even at death, became the assassin to the name “James McGuill” is impeccably executed. Additionally Kim’s turn to Jimmy’s dark side when it comes to illegal tendencies, the consequences Nacho ends up taking on, and Mike’s affair involving his work versus his morality are all excellent side-plots in this season. 

A chunk of the steady pacing, however, is mildly slugged whenever the show clogs in origins to contextual constituents or familiar ground from the Breaking Bad timeline. When the references work, they work—usually in significant settings that pertain to the central stories at hand. When they’re minimal, jammed in, and nonessential, occasionally they can feel like a betrayal to the already magnificent distinction that Better Call Saul possesses when compared to its divergent predecessor. Nevertheless, this is my only qualm with this season. Wow! 

So, debatably, it’s not quite (as if this was saying much) the greatest season of Better Call Saul—that goes to the previous season with James and Chuck’s optimum duel—but ultimately it’s another astonishingly remarkable accomplishment for television standards, again. Plus, I’d reckon that the final two episodes of season 4 make-up the best finale this show has had yet—hands down! The ultra-fine and dexterous writing revolving around these top-tier characterizations just keep on winning me over and over and over…

Season 5, don’t let me down! 

Better Call Saul Season 4 Math:

1.Smoke = A-

2.Breathe = A

3.Something Beautiful = A-

4.Talk = A-

5.Quite a Ride = A-

6.Piñata = A-

7.Something Stupid = A-

8.Coushatta = A-

9.Wiedersehen = A+

10.Winner = A+

Final Verdict: A

And yes, this is my first time ever reviewing a season of Better Call Saul, so here are my previous grades for the last three seasons below: 

Season 1 = A

Season 2 = A

Season 3 = A

This show really is the season of the A’s, huh? C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y. 

“Better Call Saul” Season 4 is available to stream on AMC, Netflix, Sling TV, fuboTV, Philo, and YouTube TV.

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TV Show Reviews

The Top 10 Best Episodes of Mr. Robot

I had 45 episodes to choose from the grand vault of Mr. Robot’s entirety to place onto this Top Ten list, and believe me, it took a while to comprise. This series has so many remarkable highlights that should be recognized and eulogized, however, it would make it a nearly fatiguing activity to talk about all of them. Thus, I’ve put together this concise Top Ten list of my favorite episodes of Mr. Robot that will hopefully encapsulate a good understanding of what specific marks in the story’s timeline made this show such a victorious accomplishment for storytelling and television. 

And heads up; there will be MAJOR SPOILERS in this ranking, so if you haven’t seen Mr. Robot yet, I would recommend not diving straight into this article quite yet. 

mrrobot_epguide_209_2560x1440

10. eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx

It’s already stressful enough thinking that Darlene is possibly going to get caught by the FBI throughout the majority of this episode. However, it’s EXTREMELY stressful when an episode is so dexterously ornamented that it has that capacity to make you think that a beloved character like Darlene might’ve been killed off. Knowingly, she’s not, but the divine build-up and masterfully executed, one-take shootout sequence at the very end of the episode genuinely could’ve fooled me. 

MrRobot_gallery_401_RamiMalek_ChristianSlater_05_1920x1080

9. 401 Unauthorized

401 Unauthorized took you back to the days when you first saw that pilot episode of Mr. Robot; it placed you 4 years back during a time when you saw an episode of television that completely caught you off guard due to its eventful speed. This initial piece to the fourth season of Mr. Robot completely diverts its audience into a calamitous circumstance while simultaneously having that anti-hero rush that made the earlier spots of the show so dear to the viewers’ hearts. Not only that, it took Sam Esmail less than 5 minutes of beginning screen-time to kill off one of the biggest characters (Angela) on the program. This ultimately damaging shift is a prime aggressor to setting up a season of hopelessness, and a season that rigorously communicates to its audience on just how precise and industrious both Elliot, Darlene, and Dominique are going to have to be in order to ultimately survive this unfeasible situation. 

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8. eps2.9_pyth0n-pt1.p7z

This is a somber sort of moment in season 2 because this is the devastating episode where Angela gets indoctrinated by the main villain, White Rose. This is the Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face from The Dark Knight of the Mr. Robot show, except, it’s executed almost like a David Lynch project. It’s apparent that it’s a love-letter to the filmmaking genius, but it’s also something that works hypnotically well by itself. It’s a very visually tranquil yet internally complex episode of television that may take some viewers a little time to fully appreciate. 

581609

7. whoami & Hello, Elliot 

The final two episodes of Mr. Robot I’d prefer to consider as a whole—sorry, I’m a dirty, stinkin’ cheater. The more I’ve thought about this polarizing, game-changing series finale, the more I genuinely find it to be the best ending this show could’ve possibly received. It takes Sam Esmail’s insane creativity and offbeat-ness that he unapologetically embraces to a soul-crushing level of innovation. It’s one “interesting” way to end your program and one that I’ll be talking about for years to come. 

mrrobot_epguide_ep206_2560x1440

6. eps2.4_m4ster-

Yep, this is the sitcom episode, where we’re utterly confused yet geekishly entertained by the soul fact that the majority of the presentation has suddenly transformed into a retro comedy program. Not only is this episode just satirically fun and beneficially functions as its own thing, but it has one of the most heartwarming reveals of the entire show. Elliot partially coming to the realization that Mr. Robot is essentially a device that’s there to personally help him and get him through grievously tough situations was so unexpected. But, I fell for it, and I will be falling for it over and over again as I continue to rewatch it.

mrr_pilot_grabs18

5. eps1.0_hellofriend.mov

Yeah, I’ve kind of already spewed my thoughts on this episode when I was discussing 401 Unauthorized, but I still have more to say about this one. eps1.0_hellofriend.mov might still be the best pilot episode to a TV show of all-time. At the least, it’s still affirmatively the most energetic and eye-gripping TV pilot I’ve ever witnessed. It’s fast-paced, it manages to get you to already care for our main characters in a matter of minutes, and its unorthodox use of realistic coding terminologies and verbal explanations can make any anti-computer samaritan a technological admirer instantaneously. 

mrrobot_epguide_ep207_2560x1440

4. eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme

Time to wake up to reality. So, Elliot was in prison this whole time for nearly half a season. Wow. As goofy as that may sound on paper, Esmail made it make 100% sense. This is a supreme example of a mind-boggling episode that additionally makes the previous episodes that came before it in the season better. Episodes 11-16 are now automatically more cohesive and intelligent considering eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme just made a lot of occurrences in those pieces enhanced like crazy. I also unexpectedly, as anyone was, got to see Joey Bada$$ gut a gang of prison rapist to pieces, so that’s a bonus. 

kaQxiOjwcJFBAS8xQhXfB9q1se3

3. eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc

Eps3.5_kill-pr0cess.inc picks up immediately after its previous episode in a panic-struck race for time. Elliot must stop a bomb that is set to blow up the New York Recovery Building, and through this challenge, we get to see Elliot violently battling his own self (AKA, Mr. Robot) for control, and ultimately coming to an appealing compromise in which both sides become neutral again. This then leads to what we believe to be the termination of the Phase 2 explosion, thanks to Elliot and Mr. Robot. It’s a shame to later learn that Elliot and Mr. Robot didn’t actually stop the bombings though. Yep. Remember when Tyrell said that he “would fix this” issue when Elliot decided not to get involved. Welp, turns out he altered the codings to bomb multiple smaller E-Corp buildings across the world. It’s smart and it makes sense. Good job, Tyrell and good job show; way to completely gut your viewers after thinking that Elliot had triumphantly saved the day. Genius writing. 

Rami-Malek-confronts-Portia-Doubleday-dd06cf9d

2. eps3.4_runtime-

One take. One episode. eps3.4_runtime- reminded me of one of those long-takes in Netflix’s Daredevil, except, the long-take isn’t made for the sake of exclusively making high-brow action sequences; the one-take is implemented to serve such an important purpose in expressing to the audience the savage and chaotic motions that are characters are frantically running through—mentally and physically. Not only that, but it makes the “in-the-moment” fret that our characters receive when finding out about some new twists and turns all the more hard-hitting and sudden. It’s also kind of a humongous technical achievement in of its entirety as well—no biggie.

191105_4062045_407_Proxy_Authentication_Required_anvver_1

1. 407 Proxy Authentication Required 

There is simply no competition when it came down to this decision. 407 Proxy Authentication is the greatest episode of television I have ever seen in my entire life. Sure, I have personal favorites like “Felina” from Breaking Bad, or “Lonely Souls” from Twin Peaks, but as much as those episodes stay true to my heart, I cannot plainly look over the sheer perfection of Mr. Robot’s 39th episode. From the emotional baggage that this episode cleverly spills on you to Sam Esmail’s clean-cut directing, this is an hour-long excursion that’s taken television by the hand to a whole other dimension. I see this being the landmark in Mr. Robot that’ll live on for an eternity in the legendary cinematic accomplishments of human history.

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TV Show Reviews

Why Mr. Robot Season 4 is One of the Greatest Seasons of Television EVER

The Following Review is Spoiler-Free

You know, monumental moments in television like Twin Peaks: The Return, Breaking Bad seasons 4-5, True Detective season 1, and Fargo season 1 may still stand the test of time as my personal favorite periods of television. However, despite these being my favorite stages in TV history, I have never, in the history of my life, run across a single season of television in which every episode was at an A+ perfectionist’s level—nor did I ever think I would witness a season of that caliber in my entire life. Unfortunately, Mr. Robot season 4 is made up of roughly only 92% of A+ episodes. There is one episode in the season that is decent at best. But, that’s about the closest I think we as viewers and binge-fanatics have ever gotten to witnessing a perfect season of a program. Season 4 almost did the impossible, but like the impossible, it would be impossible for it to be possible—duh? 

This, without the intention of sounding pretentious, legitimately feels like a 13-hour movie; a cinematic masterpiece, actually. The story this time around appears so focused on one grand plot-line, and more worried about structurally implementing a cohesively satisfying thread. It feels like a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or a Return of the King closer to a holy, beloved franchise. It reasons with a familiar three-act shape like most movies do, and decides to really ensure that its story reaches conclusions that feel earned yet utterly shocking. There are savage, crucial crunch-points in the season that truly set are characters up for challenges that put in motion a very movie-sequel-esc vibe. 

The cinematography pallet in season 4 is even more motion-picture-esc than the previous three seasons which for a long period of time were being complimented for their movie-like aesthetics. The shots and visual directing in this season are eye-suckingly complex. If you pay attention or even momentarily glance at a majority of frames in this season, you can spot out just how particular in detail they are; the screen is always glittered with intentional meaning that adds substance to the story being told. This whole entire season—on par and along with last year’s other mini-series, Too Old to Die Young—manages to look better than 99.9% of movies that come out today. 

Another strength worth mentioning about season 4 is how personal of a treatment each major character—and not just Elliot—receives during the show’s runtime. We get a ton of important information on the main antagonist, Whiterose, returning character Fernando Vera has an intimate position in the season’s narrative, and I genuinely believe that this season did Darlene’s character more justice than the previous seasons have given her; this really is the Alderson siblings’ season. Even the filler episodes in this fourth season are so respectful in their exploitations of both Elliot and Darlene’s self-acceptance and past traumas, as well as other character’s identifications—whether they’re awful or mediocre human beings. It was almost like Sam Esmail sought out to make every episode work as its own distinct masterpiece—with divergent, thematic purposes in each 50-minute counterpart. 

I think it’s also sweet that, behind the red curtains, this is an entire season dedicated to the brass-bound bond between siblings. Where in moments that seem as if life is close to the end, the show decides to passionately express Elliot and Darlene’s heartwarming connection to a T. In essence, season 4 is a family survival story, a weird one at that, sure, but an intense, lethal survival story, nonetheless. 

Okay, now let’s get a little more geeky about the season’s technical proficiencies; we are talking about programming-nerds’ favorite telly program Mr. Robot, alright. SAM ESMAIL’S DIRECTING IN THIS SEASON DESERVES ALL THE AWARDS. The way the camera moves in this particular season is sincerely a luxury that we don’t deserve to have. Did any of you recently see 1917 (Sam Mendes’s WWI film) which just came out in theaters? You remember how smooth and intricate the movement of the visuals were in that movie? Now imagine someone implementing those techniques for 13 nearly hour-long episodes. You know what? Sam Esmail might be a legit god, disguised as a filmmaking god. 

So let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Episode 7, 407 Proxy Authentication Required, is one of, if not, the greatest episode of television in human history. Mark my words, they’re going to be making live theatrical stagings of this episode—it even has the five-act, play-like structure to go with it. From where the orchestrated music is intricately placed, to the divine-inspired dialogue that sounds like it’s coming straight out of some sacred, religious texts, to the high-budget cinematography, and Sam Esmail’s Gaspar-Noé-like directing, this episode indisputably proves itself deserving of the title “modern-day classic.” Some other key players that make this episode Shakespearian as hell are just how psychologically tormenting its extreme scenarios and story reveals are. Rami Malek’s acting here is unreal and deserving of countless praises. Simultaneously, the episode also answers the biggest question us viewers have had since season 1 in the utmost effective way possible: “Why does Mr. Robot exist?” 

Additionally, the final three episodes are the best kind of “strange” that Mr. Robot has proved to be a master act at flaring. The series decides to end on a corny conclusion that’s the kind of corny conclusion that paranormally succeeds because of how imposing the inventive execution of it is. In many finales to great long tales in any form of media, the typical way to end something would be to flash our main character into the beats of all the major events that they have been through and try to find some compromise to transform it all into an uplifting final note. And, while Mr. Robot does this unapologetically, it does it in a manner that makes sense in consideration of everything that has been leading up to this moment, while also hinging on the mentally psychological hallmarks that Mr. Robot is known for. It takes a full circle around this applicable idea of how boundless the brain can be—something that Mr. Robot has been aiming to complete since day one. Plus, it does it with a bittersweet, acid-trip sort of pizazz, which is what Esmail seems to be the best at manufacturing. 

It’s difficult to explain into words why Mr. Robot is something TV fans must see immediately. Like any other television show, it’s not a life or death situation if you don’t see it. But, for those who want that BreakingBad-esc rush that they’ve been missing since day 1 of that show’s 2013 final episode, I recommend binging Mr. Robot. If anything, just watch the entire show so that you can witness 407 Proxy Authentication Required. That episode alone is worth the 36-37 hours of your time. 

Mr. Robot Season 4 Math:

401 Unauthorized = A+

402 Payment Required = A+

403 Forbidden = A+

404 Not Found = A+

405 Method Not Allowed = A+

406 Not Acceptable = A+

407 Proxy Authentication Required = A+++

408 Request Timeout = A+

409 Conflict = A+

410 Gone = B- 

eXit = A+

whoami = A+

Hello, Elliot = A+ 

Final Verdict: A+

“Mr. Robot” season 4 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

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TV Show Reviews

Quick-Thoughts: Mr. Robot Season 3

The Following Review is Spoiler-Free 

Something to notice that’s quite, dare I say, “special” about Sam Esmail’s groundbreaking television series Mr. Robot is just how different each season is from each other. Occasionally, the archetypal show would encourage themselves to be thematically and stylistically consistent. However, Esmail and his fine line-up of actors and actresses couldn’t give a damn about that proverb. Season 3 of Mr. Robot is like the demanding, twisted chain of this series. It’s the game-changing moment where characters begin to truly become manipulated, endangered, and ultimately, faulted at the hands of the antagonists of the show. Even though there were danger and stakes in the previous two seasons, this third succession of Mr. Robot genuinely takes those aspects a whole step further. 

And, I think it can’t go without mentioning just how groundbreaking episodes 5 and 6 are. I don’t believe to have recalled ever being this riveted by two back-to-back episodes in the history of my life. They grasp beyond the technical proficiency and dramatic investment that most other TV episodes of its time have had to offer. It’s bringing us closer to the saying that “television is the new cinema.” 

Mr. Robot Season 3 Math:

eps3.0_power-saver-mode.h = A+

eps3.1_undo.gz = A+

eps3.2_legacy.so = A

eps3.3_metadata.par2 = A 

eps3.4_runtime-error.r00 = A+

eps3.5_kill-process.inc = A+

eps3.6_fredrick+tanya.chk = A+

eps3.7_dont-delete-me.ko = B+

eps3.8_stage3.torrent = A 

shutdown -r = A

Final Verdict: A

“Mr. Robot” season 3 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

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TV Show Reviews

Quick-Thoughts: Mr. Robot Season 2 (2016)

The Following Review is Spoiler-Free 

I totally forgot just how much superior Mr. Robot is to most TV shows out there. If you don’t know already, I watched the first season of Mr. Robot way back when it first came out in 2015. Even though, I ended up nearly worshipping that 10-part extravaganza of television, the cramming of so many major twists and turns in the last few episodes of that initial season ended up being a major turn-off for me. But hey; here we are a few years later and I’ve whole-heartedly decided to finish the show, once in for all. 

I idolize how season 2 of Mr. Robot is almost just a gradual progression in Elliot confronting the “voice” inside his head (AKA, facing himself and his aspirations rather than hiding from them, whether that be through means of control or compromise). A normal writer/studio would’ve just instantly jumped into the next set of big occurring actions in the plot without thinking of the character’s emotional and psychological conflict after creating such an event like the Five/Nine hack. But, creator Sam Esmail clearly knew that the show would function more triumphantly if he dedicated a whole season to delving into Elliot’s mental quarrels. 

In other words, Mr. Robot season 2 is unconventional genius, and I’m dying to see season 3 and 4. I’m so happy that I’ve convinced myself to get back into this series. 

Mr. Robot Season 2 Math:

eps2.0_unm4sk-pt1.tc = A

eps2.0_unm4sk-pt2.tc = A

eps2.1_k3rnel-pan1c.ksd = A

eps2.2_init_1.asec = A

eps2.3_logic-b0mb.hc = A

eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes = A+

eps2.5_h4ndshake.sme = A+

eps2.6_succ3ss0r.p12 = A

eps2.7_init_5.fve = A

eps2.8_h1dden-pr0cess.axx = A+

eps2.9_pyth0n-pt1.p7z = A+

eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z = A

Final Verdict: A

“Mr. Robot” season 2 is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

 

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TV Show Reviews

Stranger Things Season 3 Unfortunately Doesn’t Break Any New Ground For the Beloved Netflix Show

Minor Spoilers Ahead 

I have a confession to make: I used to love Stranger Things. Yes, I know it’s mainstream as hell and nothing extensively bright, but when that first season came out, I was head over heels for the show. Additionally, when I heard that the show was going to have a new story with new characters for each season (kind of like an anthology program) I was beyond excited. But then, season 2 came out, and it turned out that they were just going to continue the story off of season 1—which didn’t disappoint me at the time because I was glad to see the continuation of the story involving these likable characters. And, ultimately, I ended up enjoying season 2, but not nearly as much as season 1. At that point, the hype for the show kind of died down for me so I had no intention of watching season 3 immediately, hence why this review is coming out so late. 

I think I might officially be done with Stranger Things—for good now. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I dug season 3 in the slightest. This show has officially lost complete steam to me. That’s not to say though that this season was bad, there are some admirable properties to this third telling of Hawkins, Indiana. The directing manages to still be very sharp, similar to the show’s previous seasons. The cinematography is clean and visually colorful at times. The actors/actresses all, for the most part, do fantastic jobs and give memorable performances. In general, the show’s first half does start off decently and does reach a solid climax in Chapter 4. A lot of adolescent themes brought into the mix that involves young love and distancing friendships were fruitful and investing. And, of course, the Steve and Dustin interchanges were enjoyable to watch. 

In terms of my nitpicky technical issues with this season, I thought the editing felt rushed in a handful of the earlier episodes; lots of the cuts and techniques reminded me of Twisted Pictures’ Saw movies. This show, more importantly, has reached a level of goofiness in its storyline that feels like a desperate attempt to keep the show going. The plot reaches areas in this season that are dumbfoundedly ludicrous and childish. Example: I’d take spooky underground caves and monster dogs (which were in Season 2) over Russian bases that live secretly underneath a public mall. The explanations that come with every far-fetched asset of this season are juvenile and weak, unlike the previous seasons that amusingly explained certain sci-fi elements. And every main threat is always a giant Demogorgon-like beast, except, every season the threat gets bigger and bigger. Remember what they say: that doesn’t necessarily mean better! 

The rhythm of the show’s story is also beginning to feel way too familiar. All these seasons end up being about some government that’s doing sketchy stuff in secret lairs that open a portal that releases a bunch of monsters. And as always, Will gets visions, Eleven has to save everybody on numerous occasions, and someone or a couple main characters at the end have to make a sacrifice. It’s so blatantly predictable at this point. 

Losing the ability to believe, loses interest, loses surprises, and everything just becomes foreseeable. I’m, furthermore, really tired of people in this show being saved at the very last second; an occasion that happens multiple times in nearly EVERY episode! There’s a fine line between how much disbelief and convention you can insert into even a science-fiction property before it becomes tiresome and flat-out exhausting. 

Some of the dialogue here is distasteful; its attempts at comedy also seem to have gotten much cringier. The pop-culture references are getting so worn-out and rowdy. We can only take so many 80s movie references, Duffer Brothers. The science-fiction, thriller elements seem to be continuously dying down as the forefront—which is a damn SHAME. Also, can somebody tell me why nearly every main character in season 3 has suddenly become a major asshole? Like, a lot of beloved characters are now attaining cocky-leveled areas of disbelief and illogicalness—especially Hopper who’s now just a bumbling buffoon in this season than an intelligent, resourceful cop. However, I can say that they tried to at least give Billy in like…two scenes…character development—which was admittedly cheesy character development but at least mildly compelling character development. 

And please: don’t get me started on the finale to this season. It’s UNBEARABLY embarrassing. 

A lot of people have been preaching that season 3 is a significant improvement over season 2 and, frankly, I don’t see it. The only improvement I can think of is that everybody starts off with new goals and intentions because they’re either all becoming teenagers or leaving high school—which could have been explored much more interestingly. But other than that, there’s nothing I can think of that this season does better than season 2 and especially season 1. The biggest issue with season 3 is that it comes off as another repeat of the first season with an even more rushed storyline than Season 2—a 9-episode runtime that at least developed its characters intensely (especially Eleven!). Season 3 is mildly entertaining and brain-numbing most of the time, but ultimately unnecessary and, MY GOLLY, forgettable. 

I really liked Robin, though. Go Uma Thurman’s offspring! 

Stranger Things Season 3 Math:

Chapter One = C+

Chapter Two = C+

Chapter Three = C+

Chapter Four = B- 

Chapter Five = C+ 

Chapter Six = C+ 

Chapter Seven = C+ 

Chapter Eight = D+

Final Verdict: C+ 

I haven’t actually written about Stranger Things before, so in case you were wondering, here are my grades for the previous two seasons:

Season 1 = A-

Season 2 = B

Yeah, season 1 still rocks. Steve’s redemption shall never be forgotten. FORGET BARB THOUGH! 

“Stranger Things” Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix.

 

Categories
TV Show Reviews

Rewatching One of My All-Time Favorite TV Shows: Death Note (2006-2007)

2nd Viewing 

Disclaimer: I don’t watch a lot of anime. In fact, Death Note is the only anime TV show that I’ve seen in its entirety and I do absolutely adore Studio Ghibli movies. Maybe I’m closed-minded, who knows? At least these brilliant Japanese properties work for me! 

Why This Show is Utter Genius: 

So, if you don’t know already, Death Note is a 2006-2007 animated television show based on Tsugumi Ohba’s manga that goes by the same title. Its story centers around this high school student named Light Yagami who finds this notebook that can essentially murder people if you write their names in it. Light decides that this could be an opportunity for him to exterminate all criminals off of the face of the planet in order to make a new, more harmonious world. However, the task doesn’t become as easy as he had predicted it to be when a detective named L begins to investigate the crimes that he is committing. Ultimately, L begins slightly suspecting Light who happens to be the son of the chief of the NPA, and eventually, it causes Light to begin working with L and the police who are ironically trying to catch this unknown mass murderer (who is Light). 

Death Note in hindsight is this insight into the two brainiest, similar in tactic but opposite in ideologies men (Light and L) going head to head in an egotistical game of cat and mouse. Every episode is a dexterous puzzle of twists and turns that genuinely are almost impossible to predict given the incredible, flat-out knack writing and plot. Nobody in this show ever feels safe, so it’s intensely gripping, and that’s probably one of the main reasons why it’s so hard to abandon the show. It’s a page-turner that’s almost impossible to turn off; it, no joke, almost caused me to pull an “all-nighter” when I first began watching it again. Witnessing these two enemies work so close together is very uncommon to the typical sort of rivalry tale. The best example I can give you is if you’ve seen the show Dexter, which is similar in the sense that that show is about a serial killing villain that also happens to only kill bad people, yet he works with the police department (like Light does). Except, Death Note is a little more off-guard and intelligent when it comes to showing you how the main villain gets out of certain situations and how he is able to not get caught despite him working so closely to the investigation team. Plus, Death Note has a great arch-nemesis for the villain that is legitimately equal in brainpower which makes the competition in this series feel epically real. 

Witnessing Light start off as this comprehensible anti-villain and slowly progress into this cancerous, manipulative demon is vastly intuitive. Even if you believe in the old “the world would be a better place without murderers” ideals, you’ll most likely still end up detesting Light as he grows closer and closer to pure wickedness. One of the most worthwhile elements of the show is this philosophical battle that its themes cause you to have. The series makes it very difficult to choose sides, and that’s why it’s such a mental conflict to personally deal with—which makes for a much more special experience. Also, L, a socially awkward genius who despite being one of the most brainy of the human race, still faces the complications and discomforts of having real-life relationships. There’s this underlying theme that occurs within this character that has to do with the drawbacks of wanting justice and reason over friendships as he begins to grow fonder of Light. I also idolize how both L and Light seem to feel neutral and admirable of one another. Even though they are enemies, they understand each other because there are not a lot of aspiring and intellectual people out there like them. 

So yeah, most of Death Note is ultimately this unpredictable spree of witty storytelling that’s almost hand-crafted to sheer perfection just to make you feel like a complete idiot. 

Some Flaws:

I’m not a fan when it comes to some of the characterizations of the female individuals in Death Note. A lot of the times they are really hokey and submissive, and I wish more women characters in Death Note felt more genuine and sharp like Naomi Misora—who was a fantastic minor character in the show. I mean, not all female characters (as well as male characters) have to be smart, but they should at least feel plausible. Specifically, I had issues with Misa Amane who is far and beyond not only the worst character in the show but the worst assert of this entire series. Her character is obnoxious, overemphasized, and unnecessarily humiliating. She has no dignity for herself and it’s quite bothersome. 

And yes, after episode 25, the show does begin to noticeably die down in quality. In fact, the only thing keeping this show away from being a tour de force is its somewhat disappointing final third. As much as I’d love to give this show an “A,” the unavoidable acknowledgment of its unfortunate decline clearly brings the shows rating down. Death Note, conclusively, can be described as an elongated masterpiece wrapped up with an undetachable decent finale. There are just way too many new characters that are inserted into the third part of Death Note’s progression as well as way to many critical moments that feel rushed. We had 25 episodes to develop our two main characters Light and L, but afterwards, the show begins to introduce so many major characters that have never been mentioned previously in the show, and it‘s an obtuse objective. Furthermore, there are specifically two characters in this chunk of the show that feel like almost exact rip-offs of L and Light—an unnecessary and pointless jab to demean two characters that were so special because of their distinct traits. But honestly, despite my concerns about the last third of Death Note, I still really liked it, it just wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the first two thirds. 

Conclusion:

Death Note is a must-watch, and I don’t say that about a lot of TV shows because a lot of series can take a ton of time to binge and sometimes not be collectively that great. Death Note, on the other hand, is quite short for an anime program considering its only one season and around 24 minutes per episode. It’s a quick watch, and it has the mountain-reaching quality that is worth your time. If you’re like me, who was someone who started off being repelled by anime, or simply someone who doesn’t like a lot of the zaniness of Japanese animation, Death Note might be that one series that you can manage. It’s pretty tame in its animation department. 

Death Note Math:

  1. Shinsei = A-
  2. Confrontation = A
  3. Dealings = A
  4. Pursuit = A
  5. Tactics = A
  6. Unraveling = A
  7. Overcast = A+
  8. Glare = A
  9. Encounter = A
  10. Doubt = A
  11. Assault = A
  12. Love = A
  13. Confession = A- 
  14. Friend = A-
  15. Wager = A
  16. Decision = A
  17. Execution = B+ 
  18. Ally = B
  19. Matsuda = B-
  20. Makeshift = A- 
  21. Performance = B 
  22. Guidance = B+ 
  23. Frenzy = A
  24. Revival = A 
  25. Silence = A+
  26. Renewal = B-
  27. Abduction = C+ 
  28. Impatience = A-
  29. Father = A-
  30. Justice = A-
  31. Transfer = B+ 
  32. Selection = B-
  33. Scorn = C+
  34. Vigilance = B-
  35. Malice = B+
  36. 1.28 = A-
  37. New World = B+

Final Verdict: A-

But essentially, Part I of Death Note (episodes 1-12) is an “A” Part II (episodes 13-25) is an “A-” and Part III (episodes 26-37) is a “B” 

Bonus! Top 5 Death Note Characters: 

  1. L
  2. Light Yagami
  3. Ryuk
  4. Rem
  5. Touta Matsuda

Top 5 Worst Death Note Characters:

  1. Misa Amane
  2. Sidoh
  3. Kyosuke Higuchi
  4. Matt (LOL!)
  5. Near

“Death Note” is now available to stream on Netflix.

 

Categories
Star Wars Reviews TV Show Reviews

The Mandalorian is Groundbreaking Proof That the World of Star Wars Can Expand Justly

WARNING: Very Minor Spoilers for Season 1 of The Mandalorian Ahead 

In a galaxy of possibilities far, but not too far away, Disney’s ability to successfully innovate Star Wars contraptions through unconventional means instead of the archetypal structure of the franchise, lies real! The Mandalorian is proof that the smaller the scale, the smaller the budget, and the more fleshed-out or personal the story, the grander the quality and the closer we get to differentiating Star Wars—rather than letting itself repeat. The Mandalorian plays out like the coolest fan-made Star Wars property yet, but in its defense, the homemade craft is what makes the experience much crisper than anything Disney has made in of the franchise previously. 

In Jon Favreau’s TV show about a lone gunfighter who runs into an unexpected task, we get to progressively learn and attach ourselves to a moderate handful of our lead characters—something that is a rare entity to find in this overrated climate of sci-fi pop culture. The Mandalorian wisely decides to market its influences off of classic Spaghetti Westerns, unlike Disney and Prequel Star Wars movies which are ironically influenced almost entirely by the original Star Wars trilogy—which were movies based off of many different pop culture roots. 

The comedy in The Mandalorian doesn’t appear cringy nor forced. Ludwig Göransson’s score is holy original and dissimilar to any musical properties held previously in the Star Wars universe. The visuals are superior and evidently more creatively implemented when compared to any other Star Wars property besides maybe Empire and A New Hope. The writing isn’t mind-boggling; everything is fairly formulaic. Yet, the simplicity of The Mandalorian isn’t something to completely fault it for. It’s nice to see a Star Wars property that doesn’t over-complicate itself and try to make itself seem like this epic extravaganza. It’s prioritization on focusing on fewer characters and intimate interests are what makes the show thrive more memorably than anything in of this overcooked fantasy saga. Our characters have clear creeds, aspirations, motives, and backstories. They aren’t vaguely examined or desperately looked over; they’re appropriately employed and easy to grasp. 

There’s a savagery to the action sequences in The Mandalorian that feels energetically fresh. The action in this show never involves something like hundreds of CGI tie fighters fighting hundreds of CGI x-wings; it’s primarily hand-to-hand, combat orientated—and of the brutalist that TV-14 can possibly deliver. People are one-by-one getting burned alive, smashed with sledgehammers, and combusted alive; you get to actually focus on a physical conflict one at a time instead of watching 100 things happen all at once like in most of Disney’s recent cinematic affairs—yay! 

The settings or production designs harken to both original Star Wars mock-ups but also from Clint Eastwood and even Akira Kurosawa feature-lengths. The creatures are wide-ranging and practically put together. From dangerous monsters with reptilian builds, to prehistoric dinosaur assets, to goofy Jawas who love to eat larger than life eggs, and even to a mysteriously complex Baby Yoda—a sufficient example of how to implement cuteness without mainly feeling like a marketing ploy. The lore and society that connects to forced servitude and the battle for freedom adds a lot to the show’s merit. Scenes like when we listen in on two speeder troopers casually converse like normal human beings and attempt to miserably fail at shooting a target are refreshing as hell. Like, these are actual quote on quote “scenes” that take their time and allow the viewers to become immersed in the atmosphere of what is being presented, unlike a lot of turbo-paced action shows that we see nowadays. Remember when you could just breathe, watch characters interact for more than 15 seconds, and get to bond with beings from all across the galaxy like in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy? Well, it’s back! 

In spite of this though, The Mandalorian didn’t start off as this appropriately paced delicacy. The series is a little glossy on storytelling at the beginning of the season—and what I mean by that is that it initiated itself as this show that always seemed like it was in a hurry. I understand that this program is supposed to appeal to kids and you need the faster pace but, c’mon. Take your time with the presentation; keep it mature. Let the audience have time to sink into the events, get to know the surrounding characters a little better, and just become absorbed practically. Nonetheless, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are immersive starter teasers into what the show seems to be all about—and very engrossing ones at that. Plus, the pace does, as I said before, begin to come around as something more admirable in its second half. 

Chapter 4 is an unfortunate misfire; not only is it unnecessary as well as shabbily and predictably written, but the new characters are inserted so randomly in such a hasty manner. The whole ordeal surrounding this particular episode feels like some video game side quest that was put into the mix so that the producers could complete their 8-episode-long runtime. Chapter 5 is a weakly written filler as well. Plus, while it does seem less spontaneous or less absurd as Chapter 4 did, it doesn’t have the character development of Mando which Chapter 4 at the very least featured. So that’s something to take into consideration. 

Chapter 6, however, luckily picked my and most likely most viewers’ attention up real quick. In an arguably endlessly fun episode, we witness a very amusing prison break that has buoyant new side characters including a Bill Burr who packs more jokes in this than even in some of his comedy specials. Chapter 7 and 8 is when the show starts to make a full, imposing circle, fortunately. Where my main worry that originated from episodes 4 and 5 (being that the show wouldn’t follow a particular storyline and would just be a series of random episodes) chapters 7 and 8 seem to put those concerns at ease. The show engages an epic amount of stakes and tension in these finale pieces—where you begin to feel as if nobody is safe. There are some unexpected twists and turns and a fair share of solid execution. Plus, Gus from Breaking Bad is in these episodes. C’mon. Us fans are spoiled. 

Ultimately, The Mandalorian doesn’t necessarily break cinematic ground—it is heavy on its banal story influences—but it damn well breaks Star Wars ground, and frankly, it doesn’t need to break anymore than just that for now. This was a very intelligent move on Disney’s part, and all though, it isn’t anything too complex or outstanding, it is great; more importantly, however, it is investing. Believe me, I’m intrigued to see Season 2 this Fall. 

The Mandalorian Math:

Chapter 1 = B 

Chapter 2 = B

Chapter 3 = B

Chapter 4 = C

Chapter 5 = C

Chapter 6 = B 

Chapter 7 = B+

Chapter 8 = B+

Final Verdict: B

“The Mandalorian” is now available to stream on Disney+. 

 

Categories
TV Show Reviews

Quick-Thoughts: HBO’s Chernobyl

5 hours and 30 minutes of unadulterated realism, unadulterated concentration, and unadulterated terror. Ladies and gentlemen, HBO presents, Chernobyl.

The events of Chernobyl are quintessential landmarks in history that occur to remind us that it only takes a couple jerks and a government of liars to start a national catastrophe. Translation: we are never safe as long as we are amongst humankind. 

It was the wakeup call of a lifetime.

HBO’s Chernobyl puts classic horror catastrophe movies such as 28 Days Later or Jaws to shame—and it’s something that actually happened. The mini-series seems to be aiming to not only cover just about all the intricate details that happened during these fatal moments but to inform its viewers of the outcomes we should avoid when calculating human behaviors. It’s a show about the consequences of confidentiality and how the ego of narcissistic authorities can alarmingly overcome the demanding priorities of life. 

Like how David Fincher’s The Social Network made computer coding look interesting as hell, Chernobyl makes nuclear physics look like the easy-to-understand hobby of a lifetime. Despite the complicated, scientific information that the show must communicate to its wide-ranging audiences, it seems to handle the matter quite smoothly.

So yes, HBO’s Chernobyl is great. In fact, it’s epic. However, the coined term “best mini-series of all time” I have my doubts about—I mean, have you guys seen the first season of True Detective and Fargo???—but it’s unquestionably a top contender for the spot. Artistically, the show is nothing pioneering—and it certainly doesn’t have to be bearing in mind it’s just trying to be as genuine as possible. The narrative is very cohesive, so this was definitely a show that was meant to appeal to almost everyone. It’s just that shows that do take far more risks are going to likely appeal to me considerably more.  

I’m a bit stumped though on how a screenwriter can simply go from writing Scary Movie 3-4, Superhero Movie, The Hangover Part II-III, Identity Thief, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War to writing a high-brow historical drama like Chernobyl. This dude makes Todd Phillip’s accomplishment with Joker look like child’s play.

Chernobyl Math:

Episode 1 —> 1:23:45 = A-

Episode 2 —> Please Remain Calm = A-

Episode 3 —> Open Wide, O Earth = A-

Episode 4 —> The Happiness of All Mankind = B+

Episode 5 —> Vichnaya Pamyat = A

Final Verdict: A-

“Chernobyl” is now available to stream on HBO NOW.